The focus of a major new road project in Lancashire is shifting to the M55 later this month as work to build a new junction ramps up. Work on the new motorway junction – the long-awaited ‘missing’ junction 2 - has been going on since the Preston Western Distributor (PWD) project started in October 2019. The new junction bridge beams were installed over the motorway in June and a new, more intensive, phase of work along the motorway will start on Monday (18 October) with the installation of services to support new facilities such as gantries, CCTV and four new electronic messaging signs. The new phase involves lane closures and occasional overnight and weekend carriageway closures over the next year or so. The new road and motorway link are due to open in early 2023. Brian Smith, senior project manager for National Highways, said: “The new motorway junction is a vital component of the PWD project and as well as supporting the local economy will help relieve congestion at other junctions along the motorway. The work has been carefully planned to keep drivers on the move along the M55 for most of the time but there will be occasional overnight or weekend carriageway closures during the next year or so.”
County Councillor Charlie Edwards, cabinet member for highways and transport at Lancashire County Council said:
"We have been working closely with National Highways to minimise disruption for drivers whilst this important work is carried out to construct this long-awaited new motorway junction.
“This is a vital part of the Preston Western Distributor scheme, which also includes two new roads connecting to the current and future development of thousands of homes in the Northwest Preston Strategic Housing Site.
“These roads and the new motorway junction will create much needed additional capacity and help to reduce congestion and queuing on parts of the road network. It will greatly benefit the city, especially the areas Fulwood, Ingol, Cottam, Lea and Ashton, and the wider area including the Enterprise Zone at Warton." Caption: Coming and going: the new bridge and junction is taking shape (above) while the old footbridge (below) will be removed next year The new junction is being constructed between Swillbrook and Higher Bartle. It is being delivered as part of the £207 million Preston Western Distributor partnership project led by Lancashire County Council. As part of special ‘designated’ funds to support the generation of new jobs and building of new homes, National Highways, which operates the M55, is contributing £25 million. The new motorway junction will be formed from a ‘dumbbell’ arrangement with a bridge linked to a roundabout each side of the motorway serving the eastbound and westbound entry and exit slip roads. Traffic management over the next few weeks includes two weeks of overnight lane closures along the westbound and eastbound carriageways past the junction construction site, followed by overnight closures of the eastbound and westbound carriageways on different nights in early November. From Monday 8 November there will be further single overnight carriageway closures to close off lane one in each carriageway until the end of next year, leaving two lanes running in each direction. In the new year, the M55 will be closed for a weekend between junction 1 and junction 3 as an old footbridge near the new junction is removed. Further full overnight carriageway closures will be required next May as gantries are installed to carry cameras and signs. The £207m Preston Western Distributor scheme is being constructed on the west side of the city from the M55 motorway to a new junction with Blackpool Road at Lea. Funding for these new roads is coming from the Department for Transport and the Lancashire Growth Deal, managed by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. Further funding comes from National Highways and the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal. The Preston Western Distributor is the biggest new road programme in the City Deal. City Deal is an agreement between the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, along with central government and Homes England. The City Deal will help to deliver new infrastructure, new homes and more jobs over the next ten years. It will help to create more than 20,000 new private sector jobs and see over 17,000 new homes built across the area, along with new school places, open green spaces and new health provision to cater for the growing population. More information, including details of the motorway closure diversion routes is available on the PWD webpage.