THE new Cheshire West and Chester Council is being asked to back the £430m Mersey Gateway Bridge.
The powerful Executive of the shadow authority has been asked by Halton Borough Council if it supports the Mersey crossing.Š
The 2,300m long bridge is proposed 1.5km from the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge which links Runcorn and Widnes.Š
It would link with the A562 route to Liverpool and to the M56 via the Runcorn Central Expressway providing access to Chester, North Wales and Manchester.Š
The bridge, with three lanes in each direction, is planned to have three towers rising up to 140m above the river bed.Š
Beneath the road, provision is being made for a future light rail transit system.Š
The bridge is described as a major strategic transport route which would allow the Silver Jubilee Bridge to be used for local traffic with space for cyclists and pedestrians.Š
It is proposed that tolls would be levied on both bridges but there is agreement that these would be partly subsidised by the government to keep down costs to motorists.Š
Although local people and businesses in Runcorn and Widnes will face added costs, a report says the bridge will be free to buses, cyclists and pedestrians.Š
Benefits are said to include new transport links across the Mersey linking Liverpool and the north west to the rest of the country and improved connections between Cheshire and Liverpool John Lennon Airport.Š
It will also ease congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge which at present carries 10 times the traffic it did when it was first opened.Š
It is believed the bridge will directly create 1,000 jobs.
Halton Borough Council has commissioned consultants to prepare a major regeneration strategy to look at how it could contribute to other initiatives including new housing, offices, employment, retail and leisure facilities.Š
It is hoped this could create 3,000 new jobs.Š
A public inquiry into the bridge is due to be held next year (2009) with construction starting in 2011 and the bridge opening in 2014.Š
Cheshire West and Chester's director of regeneration Charlie Seward says the council will need to ensure that any effect on the road network in West Cheshire is dealt with as part of the planning application.Š
He believes that on the basis of the information which has been provided, the bridge would bring “significant benefits” not just to Halton but also to West Cheshire and the wider region.Š
Mr Seward adds, however: “The proposed tolling of the Silver Jubilee Bridge would create additional cost to local people and businesses that could undermine the economic development and regeneration benefits of the wider scheme.''Š
He is recommending the executive, which meets on Wednesday (November 19) that it should support the bridge on the grounds of the benefits to West Cheshire.
But he also believes the council should object to tolls on the Silver Jubilee Bridge which should be free to all users.Š
He is suggesting that part of the scheme should be re-examined to see how the income from tolls could be secured from alternative sources.Š