A new upgraded motorway junction will open ahead of schedule next month as part of the ongoing Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC) project.
When the cones are fully lifted on 1 February, the new M9 Junction 1a will provide significantly better connections for traffic using the road network in West Lothian and to the north west of Edinburgh, in turn helping relieve local communities of strategic traffic.
The new £25.6m junction completes the second of the three main contracts to deliver the vital FRC project, following the opening of the upgraded M90 in Fife in December.
The early benefits of these completed contracts include the state-of-the-art Intelligent Transport System (ITS) which will help smooth traffic flow and reduce traffic queuing at peak times. The system will also provide a dedicated bus lane to encourage greater public transport use across the Forth.
The bridge itself is well on course to open in 2016 and this year will see the permanent bridge structure begin to appear from the waters of the Forth.
Minister for Transport and Veterans Keith Brown said:
“This excellent news is yet more evidence of this government’s commitment to investing in Scotland’s infrastructure and delivering ahead of time and ahead of budget wherever it can. Not only is this work going to be completed earlier than the expected Spring 2013 opening but remember that the winning tender came in some £20m under the original budget. I congratulate my officials and the contractors on such a fine job.
“The entire Forth Replacement Crossing scheme comprises nearly 14 miles of new or upgraded road. It was always more than just a bridge project and I’m delighted we are going to complete the road upgrades to the north and south of the Forth ahead of schedule so people can start to benefit from this vital project as early as possible.
“Completing M9 Junction 1a means drivers will now have much improved, motorway-standard connections between the current road bridge and the M9, improving accessibility to West Lothian and traffic coming from the west via the M8.
“Importantly, it should encourage drivers who currently use local roads to avoid congestion to use the improved junction and, in turn, relieve communities of the strategic traffic they regularly have to endure.”
The work, carried out on Transport Scotland’s behalf by Sisk Roadbridge, has seen previous connections between the M9 and the M9 Spur enhanced to provide two lanes and a hard shoulder to assist traffic flow.
The enhanced junction will also improve connectivity with West Lothian by incorporating new west facing slip roads between the M9 and M9 Spur, which required a new bridge across the M9 and extension of other local bridges.
To complement these improvements, the section of the M9 north of Newbridge Roundabout has been improved with an additional lane being added in both directions from the River Almond bridge to M9 Junction 1a.
The scheme includes a southbound hardshoulder bus lane from the M9 spur (now the M90) to Newbridge allowing southbound buses to avoid queues on the slip road to Newbridge roundabout. This is expected to save buses up to 20 minutes in the peak periods.
The opening also completes phase two of the FRC ITS system roll-out with phase three being completion of the bridge in 2016. This is the first time such as system has been used in Scotland. Similar "managed motorways" have been successfully implemented in England, for example on the M42, M6 and M25.
Overhead gantries spaced regularly along the corridor will provide lane control, variable mandatory speed control and bus lane control. Variable message signs on the gantries will provide drivers with a wide range of traffic information.
There is clear evidence from similar schemes in the UK and across the world that Intelligent Transport Systems increase road operational efficiency, capacity and safety.More information including a FRC ITS video is available online at www.FRCits.info.