WORK has started on a multi-million pound scheme designed to reduce congestion and improve safety on the overcrowded M62 motorway.
Roads Minister Mike Penning visited Bruntcliffe on Thursday to launch the first managed motorway scheme in Yorkshire.
The £150m project covers a 15-mile stretch between junction 25 at Brighouse and junction 30 at Rothwell.
When it is completed in late 2013, early 2014 the hard shoulder will be turned into a permanent lane and traffic speeds will be controlled with a series of cameras and variable speed limit signs.
Asked whether this meant short term pain for motorists faced with nearly three years of road works, the minister said: “The pain in here now, the congestion on this piece of motorway is dreadful and this will make a big difference to the community here, environmentally as well as economically.
“In the short term there will be pain, it will create congestion but in the long term the effect will be dramatic. All the evidence is that motorway management systems are safer, environmental pollution is reduced and the traffic flow is improved.”
Highways Agency project manager David Pilsworth said: “In order to minimise delays to road users, we are carrying out this work in phases and keeping three lanes available to traffic in both directions at peak times throughout the construction.
“We are also working closely with residents in the area to address any questions they may have.”
The first phase of construction will focus on the stretch between Junction 27 (Gildersome) and Junction 28 (Tingley).
Overhead gantries will be constructed and emergency refuge areas for breakdowns will be constructed alongside what is currently the hard shoulder.
There will be a 50mph speed limit through the works, some overnight lane closures and occasional overnight motorway closures from spring next year as the gantries are put in place.
The use of the hard shoulder as a traffic lane initially alarmed safety campaigners who feared breakdowns could cause serious accidents or that the emergency services would not be able to get through.
Mr Penning however said: “We don’t have the capacity on the motorways to take the traffic we have let alone the capacity to allow for economic expansion.
“In a perfect world we would be able to build motorways with the capacity we need but the sheer cost is phenomenal. We are a small country and this is the best solution with the resources we have.
“I was sceptical at first, as a former fireman and driver of emergency vehicles I would never in a million years have allowed this to happen if I wasn’t convinced by independent experts and by pilot studies that this is safe.”
He added that the cameras used during the roadworks and when the scheme is up and running were very accurate and that those exceeding the speed limit would be prosecuted.