'Long time coming' – New speed limit signs installed on Orwell Bridge
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Ipswich's Orwell Bridge now does not have to shut until wind speeds exceed 60mph - thanks to new signs which will enforce lower speed limits to avoid full closures.
The bridge, carrying more than 60,000 vehicles a day to and from the Port of Felixstowe, has long been forced to close due to high winds.
This costs Ipswich's economy £1million every day it is closed, according to Ipswich Central, as drivers are diverted to the centre causing gridlock.
But with the new changeable electronic signage, installed by Highways England over the last few months, the bridge will now not have to close until winds reach 60mph.
And when wind speeds are predicted to exceed 45mph up to 60mph, a new 40mph driving speed limit will be enforced.
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MP for Ipswich, Tom Hunt, said this is likely to prevent 80% to 90% of the Orwell Bridge closures that have plagued Ipswich.
Mr Hunt said: "For my constituents in Ipswich, this has been a long time coming and I know that some have been frustrated that a solution wasn’t implemented sooner.
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"But it is great that we finally have a solution in place which will hopefully see an end to the majority of these closures for the future."
Highways England workers carried out the improvements at night in sub-zero temperatures throughout January, February and March over the 43m tall and 1,000m wide bridge.
Mr Hunt, who visited to inspect the roadworks, added that he "fully appreciated" the amount of toil that had gone into digging up the road to install the electric cabling underneath.
He also said he was looking forward to the "material difference" it would make to Ipswich residents.
Suffolk police will use two new average speed cameras on either side of the bridge to prosecute drivers not sticking to the new limits.
Martin Fellows, Highways England regional director, said: "It’s vital that motorists respect the speed limits shown on the new electronic signs for their own safety and the safety of others.”
Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Thérèse Coffey, as well as Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, also welcomed the completion of the project.
Dr Poulter added: "These new improvements mean that the bridge will be able to remain open more often and this is fantastic news for drivers, local residents, businesses and hauliers, all of whom are detrimentally affected on the occasions when the bridge has to close.”
The £1.7million project was backed by the findings of a year-long aerodynamic study of the bridge by City University of London.
The study concluded that reducing the traffic speed limit to 40mph during wind speeds of 45mph to 60mph meant the bridge could safely remain open to traffic.
In recent years, revised signage has enabled closures to be made and removed within a 20minute period, rather than the previous 50minutes.
Visit here for more information on the project.