READERS’ burning traffic questions and congestion queries have finally been answered after the Warrington Guardian gave readers the chance to put any issues they may have to council bosses.
The top ten entries were selected and submitted with questions ranging from the development of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge to traffic signals.
Clr Linda Dirir, executive board member for highways, transportation and climate change, and Steve Hunter, service manager for transportation, have answered your questions and now we can reveal their answers.
Check out the first five responses below. The final five questions will be published in next week’s Warrington Guardian.
Q1. When there is a motorway problem it causes Manchester Road to be blocked solid. The main reason is cars that park on either the carriageway or half on the footpath and the carriageway. These vehicles reduce a 2 lane highway down to one. Why are double yellow lines not mandatory on major roads? Desmond Wilcox
A1. We are very aware of the congestion in Warrington and we work closely with the Highways Agency to try to minimise the effect but unfortunately when incidents occur on the motorway network large numbers of vehicles do decide to come through town using local roads.
We have invested significantly in our traffic control system to keep traffic moving as efficiently as possible. When incidents occur our positive control of sensitive signal controlled junctions enables us to relieve the congestion as quickly as possible.
In these situations, the introduction of yellow lines to restrict parking on routes such as the A57 Manchester Road may serve to reduce overall queue lengths on the road by allowing two lane queuing although it would not reduce the journey times or delays experienced as it is the capacity limitations of critical junctions that controls traffic flows and not the sections of road between junctions.
Any further restriction of parking on Manchester Road would be detrimental to both residents and local businesses and would serve little benefit to the management of traffic flow on the network.
Q2. Why isn’t the traffic light sequence more closely monitored? The junction at Sainsburys on Church Street and Farrell St is a nightmare. On Padgate Lane, traffic travelling towards Orford is kept waiting which causes issues at the Manchester Road lights, i.e. blocking the road. The turn into Birchwood way is also a problem, especially for traffic coming towards Padgate Lane. Shirley Lightfoot
A2: All traffic signal junctions are routinely monitored to ensure they operate safely and efficiently by staff in the council’s Traffic Control Room in New Town House.
The junction you have highlighted is, like all traffic signals in Warrington, controlled automatically by traffic control equipment which adjusts the green times given to traffic at the junction and also takes into account the timings at other nearby junctions to ensure that the junctions are working as efficiently as possible to keep delays to motorists to the lowest possible level.
Notwithstanding this, we will take a closer look at this junction just to make sure that it is working as it should.
The traffic signals in the Padgate area are also controlled centrally via our automatic monitoring system and indeed these signals are linked together to provide the most efficient method of control within that part of the town.
The whole area has only recently been validated and as such we have been closely monitoring the performance of the area. Observed queue lengths have reduced and journey times through these junctions have improved.
Q3. Could there be another road going from Chester Road to Great Sankey to prevent too much traffic going through Bridge Foot? Vicky Stankus
A3. The Bridge Foot junction suffers from high levels of traffic congestion because it is one of only two crossings of the River Mersey in Warrington.
The M6 Thelwall Viaduct and the Silver Jubilee Bridge linking Runcorn with Widnes, both also suffer from high levels of traffic congestion. This lack of crossings of the River Mersey mean that each of them has to cope with huge amounts of traffic – there are typically over 17,000 vehicle movements at Bridge Foot and Brian Bevan Island in rush hour.
For years there have been investigations about providing an extra crossing to the west of Warrington to connect A56 Chester Road with the A57 Sankey Way, but such investigations have never got very far until recently due to the high cost of providing bridge crossings across the Manchester Ship Canal, River Mersey and also the need to cross the West Coast Main Line Railway.
However in 2013, we published Warrington Means Business (click here) which sets out ambitious plans to drive forward the growth of Warrington.
This includes a programme of projects called Warrington Waters which will expand the town centre and create a new major mixed use development area set alongside the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey.
The transport infrastructure needed to unlock this growth includes new fixed (i.e. not swing) bridge crossings of the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey and a network of roads to connect the A56 Chester Road and A57 Sankey Way.
It also includes new links from Chester Road to Parker Street which will help to reduce traffic levels at Bridgefoot.
We have recently submitted a Strategic Economic Plan to Government which includes funding bids for this and an announcement is expected in July.
The schemes will take up to 10 years given their high cost, but we are very strongly committed to this.
Q4. What plans are in place for Warrington roads when the new and old Runcorn bridges start charging money to cross over and vehicles avoid this by going through Warrington? Bryan Hampson
A4. Both Halton Borough Council (and Cheshire County Council before them) have been trying for many years to secure funding to build a new bridge crossing for the River Mersey to take pressure off the heavily congested Silver Jubilee Bridge which connects Runcorn and Widnes.
The Silver Jubilee Bridge is the only road crossing of the River Mersey between the Mersey Tunnels and Bridgefoot and it carries over 80,000 vehicles per day which is a far higher number than it was designed for.
We have taken a very active role throughout the development of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge, and were on the Mersey Crossing Group which acted as a key group in progressing the bridge and lobbying the Government to secure funding approval.
Government funding approval was finally secured in 2006. However this funding was only provided if it was agreed that both the new bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge both had toll charges on them in order to provide funding towards the building of the bridge.
Halton Borough Council did a lot of analysis on what effect the tolls would have on whether drivers would pay to use the new bridge or look to avoid the toll by using other bridges across the River Mersey.
This work showed that some traffic can be expected to divert to the Mersey Tunnels or Thelwall Viaduct but also through Warrington, either crossing the river at Bridgefoot or across Kingsway Bridge, with more traffic predicted to divert during off peak periods than during rush hour because of traffic congestion.
In 2009 we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Halton committing them to monitor the impact of the bridge on our traffic including potential road improvements.
In March 2014 the council unanimously passed a motion calling for the Mersey Gateway Bridge to be built without tolls and be free to use for all motorists.
We will continue to lobby hard for this but at the same time will look to work with Halton to ensure that if the Government does not change its mind on tolls that Warrington can secure as much as possible in terms of road improvements to help to reduce the impact of traffic which diverts and also look at measures to discourage this diversion from occurring in the first place.
We are particularly concerned about traffic diverting during off peak traffic periods, particularly heavy goods vehicles and will be pressing Halton Borough Council on what measures can help to discourage this.
The delivery of the Warrington Waters scheme and a new road connection from the A56 Chester Road to A57 Sankey Way as mentioned in the answer to question 3 will be important to help to reduce the impact of traffic which does divert from the new Mersey Gateway Bridge.
An important point to note on this is that when the new Mersey Gateway Bridge opens in Autumn 2017 the Silver Jubilee Bridge will be closed for major maintenance work for some time.
Should the Mersey Gateway scheme not have been approved then the impact of these works, which would potentially involve lane closures and complete closures on traffic conditions in Warrington could have been expected to be much worse than the impact of traffic diverting to avoid the payment of tolls.
Q5. Is the council planning to put more traffic lights on the Winwick Road? Could the lights to the shopping centres be part-time? Maciejewski Marek
A5. There are no current plans to introduce additional traffic signals. All traffic signals are demand dependent, in other words they will not turn to green unless there are vehicles waiting or very specific criteria are met.
The traffic signals along Winwick Road only give a green to vehicles exiting the shopping centres when a vehicle is waiting and will adjust the green time according to the number of vehicles waiting.
The signals cannot be part time as it would be unsafe to have vehicles exiting the shopping centres onto fast moving traffic on Winwick Road and therefore require positive signalling.
Additionally, there are pedestrian crossings (which are also signalled) at these junctions and again, it would be confusing (and dangerous) if they were part time.