Work on the Orwell Bridge to implement temporary speed limits will start this month, which will allow it to stay open during high winds, according to Highways England.
At the moment the speed limit for traffic travelling over the bridge is 60mph and is lowered to 50mph during high winds. The new system will allow the limit dropped to 40mph when wind speeds are between 45-60mph.
The upgrades are part of a series of measures being taken to improve the resilience of the Orwell Bridge and the £1.7million project is backed by the findings from a year-long aerodynamic study of the bridge by City University of London.
Martin Fellows, Highways England regional director, said: “We understand the vital importance of the Orwell Bridge for people living and working in Ipswich and also for the people and businesses that depend on goods arriving and leaving the UK at the Port of Felixstowe.
The Orwell Bridge was opened to road traffic in 1982 and carries the A14 (then A45) over the River Orwell just south of Ipswich in Suffolk, England.
The main span is 190 metres which, at the time of its construction, was the longest pre-stressed concrete span in use. The total length is 1,287 metres from Wherstead to the site of the former Ipswich Airport. The width is 24 metres with an air draft of 43 metres. Pilings were sunk 40 metres into the river bottom.
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, has been campaigning for the measures said: “On the whole I am very happy,” he said. “I know it is a challenge completing work at this time of year and it highways workers must be safe, but I have said I am sure it would be very welcomed by those living or working in Ipswich if it were done quicker. This means that we are more likely to be able to safely keep the bridge open even if it is windy, and means less congestion in town.”
“If they do make their target of mid March then it will hopefully be around the same time lockdown restrictions begin to be removed and hopefully we can start our recovery and won’t have this albatross of the Orwell Bridge closures causing making matters worse for trade.”
Councillor Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs, said: “The effect of wind-related closures on the Orwell Bridge are well known and incredibly frustrating for people travelling in and around Ipswich, as well as those traveling to and from the East of the county, including the Port of Felixstowe.
“As the local highway authority for the non-A14 roads, we very much welcome the solution of the digital speed signs to allow traffic to cross the bridge safely at a reduced speed when there are strong winds.
“Closing the Orwell Bridge can cost the local economy up to £1million per day and this cannot continue to happen.”