Gridlocked Bedford town centre has received a bumper Christmas present – an £18m grant to tackle traffic congestion.
It means the road network, which has hardly changed since the middle ages, will receive a modern-day revamp.
The notorious Ampthill Road will have a ‘Smart Corridor’, which uses state-of-the-art technology to assess road volumes linked to signal controllers, to manage the flow of traffic and reduce congestion.
But one of the most notorious spots, the Cow Bridge junction will have improvements for cyclists and pedestrians rather than motorists.
The heart of the town will have a “major refurbishment” and traffic will be reduced to one lane only on the High Street to create more room for shoppers.
Meanwhile the Shakespeare Road/Ashburnham Road junction will have traffic lights installed, and there will be increased capacity on roads around the hospital with modifications to the Ampthill Road/Britannia Road/Kempston Road junctions.
Other traffic signalled junctions will be modernised and the urban management system, which controls all the traffic lights across town, will receive a major overhaul.
The scheme, called Transporting Bedford 2020, follows the council’s bid for Government funding, backed by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership.
This week mayor Dave Hodgson learned the bid was successful.
He said: “Never before has so much money been invested in our town centre roads and work will see targeted works to tackle congestion at key traffic hotspots.
This will cut congestion, improve safety for all road users and significantly boost the local economy. All road users will benefit.”
One motorist is already dubious. She said: “It all looks good on paper but how will a smart corridor along Ampthill Road help reduce the traffic congestion around the Cow Bridge junction which is just a nightmare?”
“And improvements for pedestrians and cyclists at that junction would be a waste of money - there are few cyclists and even fewer pedestrians.
“They would be better off concentrating on improving the Manton Lane junction which is not even mentioned.”
a map of Bedford produced in 1610 by John speed John Speed shows the road network in town has hardly changed in 400 years.
Mayor Dave said : “While we’re rightly proud of our history, Bedford’s ancient road network presents its own constraints for a modern transport system. As John Speed’s map shows, Bedford town centre has been built in and around a road network established for hundreds of years, and we have to work within that. But this project will tackle those hotspots which harm local business and people’s everyday quality of life.”
The new plans will be finalised in the coming months with works beginning next year and continuing until 2021.
To give your views visit www.bedford.gov.uk/transportingbedford2020