Monday, June 20, 2016

News: M1 closure for smart motorway upgrade

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A "superspan" gantry crossing the M1 will be installed overnight tonight as part of a major smart motorway project to tackle congestion and improve journey times through Rotherham.

Highways England has been working on the £106m scheme on a ten mile stretch of the M1 between junctions 32 (south of Sheffield and Rotherham) and 35a (north of Sheffield and Rotherham). A 20 mile stretch of the M1 between junction 28 (South Normanton) and 31 (Aston) is also benefiting from a "smart motorway" project costing £205m where four lane running began in April.

The projects include converting the hard shoulder to an extra traffic lane in both directions and variable mandatory speed limits and they deliver benefits at a significantly lower cost than conventional motorway widening, and with less impact on the environment during construction.

Costain, contractors for Highways England will be installing the overhead gantry, which will carry message and variable speed limit signs, on Monday night when traffic levels are at their lowest.

The gantry – which will span both the northbound and southbound carriageways of the motorway – is approximately 47 metres wide, weighs up to 30 tonnes and will require a special 200 tonne crane to help install it as well as an overnight closure of the northbound carriageway. One lane will remain open on the southbound carriageway.

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The gantry will be erected between junction 35 at Rotherham and junction 36 at Barnsley overnight between 9pm and 6am. The closure could be postponed if strong winds are forecast.

Arun Sahni, project manager at Highways England, said: "The erection of a "superspan" is a big job that calls for a night closure on the northbound carriageway, but then they're very big structures. You really get a sense of their size when they are on the ground waiting to go up.

"This gantry is also close to an overhead electric cable which is why we need to close the carriageway, so it's important for people who use the motorway at night to plan their journeys."

Work on the 32 - 35 stretch is scheduled to complete "by the end of March 2017."

Environmental assessments carried out on these proposed managed motorway schemes showed there was likely to be an adverse impact on local air quality if the motorway continued to operate at the national speed limit (70mph).

A proposed maximum mandatory 60mph speed limit was discounted by the Government and the latest option could see 60mph speed limits at weekday peak times between junctions 28 and 35a - between 07:00-09:00 in the morning and 15:00-18:00 in the evening.

Highways England is looking at other mitigation options and conculded at the end of last year: "Imposing speed control will only be used as a last resort. A number of automatic air quality continuous monitors have been installed alongside the M1 and data from these continuous monitors will be used to evaluate the mitigation measures and the date when the measures can be lifted."

Highways England website

Images: Costain

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