A multi-million pound project to improve Sunderland’s road network will make the city “fit for purpose in the 21st Century”, council bosses have said.
Construction work has started on the third phase of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC 3) at the southern end of the Northern Spire bridge.
The project will create a dual carriageway through Pallion, running underneath the Queen Alexandra Bridge, into Deptford and onto the city centre and St Mary’s Boulevard.
Work compounds are now in place and people will see more large-scale works in the coming weeks and months – with an estimated completion date of autumn 2021.
Sunderland City Counci l leader, Coun Graeme Miller, said the project was crucial for boosting jobs, leisure and retail in the city.
“This road structure is very important for us for two reasons, it opens up the south bank of the river for development, it’s a large brownfield site which is currently very difficult to get in and out of,” he said.
“By putting a road system in, that land has value and we expect to see hundreds if not thousands of houses come along the south bank of the river once this is built and up and running.
“The second element is East-West connectivity to enable Sunderland residents and people who come and work here to get in and out of the city quickly.
“Whether it’s for people coming for the leisure offer or for some retail therapy, we need more done on new roads to enable people to get in and out more quickly.
“The whole point of this system is to make Sunderland fit for purpose in the 21st Century and give people what they need.”
In March this year, the Government confirmed a £40.5m contribution towards the £70.8m project.
At the time of the announcement, Transport Minister Jesse Norman said: “Sunderland is a great city with a great future.”
Council capital funding of £16.9m, an underspend from the Northern Spire project of £7.8m, and a Department for Transport local transport grant of £5.6m also contributed to the project.
And the £35m construction contract for the new works since been awarded to civil engineers Esh Civils, the civil engineering division of Esh Construction.
The council has said the scheme’s design takes into account the land’s former use and geology, including the construction of 1.2 miles of retaining walls and structures.
While the the works will see disruption for residents during construction, the plans aim to reduce congestion and improve journey times and road safety in the long-term.
Assistant director of Infrastructure, Planning and Transportation on the council, Mark Jackson, said that residents would be kept informed of the scheme as it progresses.
“Unfortunately when your building a road of this nature and scale there will be some disruption,” he said.
“All we can do from a council point of view and network management point of view is try and manage it as best we can, keep everybody informed and if we have to do any temporary closures do it at the most appropriate time.
“People may have to divert around different roads temporarily until the roads reopen and the scheme is in place.
“From a road safety point of view, all of the junctions which currently don’t necessarily have the best crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, they will all be improved.”
He added: “Based on the learning from the Northern Spire, we already know what could potentially happen and should have plans in place to minimise the problems that they might cause.
“Ultimately, once it’s open, that improved link from the A19 all the way through to the city centre and Vaux site and onwards to the port, I think people will see the real benefit.”
Andy Radcliffe, Esh Group’s chief executive, confirmed the scheme will “stimulate growth, create jobs and attract investment to our region”.
He said: ” Sunderland City Council’s decision to procure via NEPO (North East Procurement Organisation) ensures social value will be created as a result of the ongoing works, benefiting the local community, not only during the project but long after its completion.
“The scheme will deliver a comprehensive social value package which includes training and employment opportunities for local residents, support for local primary and secondary students, work experience placements for college and university students and a number of full-time jobs.”
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