Two years of roadworks through the centre of Brighton are due to start next month between St Peter’s Church and the seafront.
The work involves creating a new road layout for the area and is known as the Valley Gardens project.
The first two phases, costing more than £10 million, are expected to begin in September now that a contractor has been chosen.
Some details though are still being finalised, Brighton and Hove City Council said yesterday (Thursday 2 August).
The council originally said that the Valley Gardens project would take two years but the contractor, civil engineers Dyer and Butler, hope to complete the works in 17 months.
The project involves rerouting general traffic and bus lanes along the A23 from St Peter’s Church to the junction of Church Street.
General traffic will be routed in four lanes to the east of the gardens – with two lanes each heading into and out of town.
Buses and taxis will use a dedicated two-lane corridor on the west side of the gardens.
The scheme, first announced by Labour more than 10 years ago and started under the Greens, was first delayed after the current Labour administration came to power in 2015.
The pause followed an election pledge to halt the scheme because of concerns about the accuracy of traffic modelling – and the resulting potential for gridlock.
Updated traffic modelling reports suggest that the revised layout would slightly increase rush-hour journey times along half of the route but reduce them on the other half.
Taking this into account, and the fact that scrapping the scheme would cause the loss of £8 million in government funding, the first two phases of the scheme were approved by councillors.
The third and final phase, from Edward Street to the seafront, has just entered the design phase. Initial designs include three options for the Aquarium roundabout which could include replacing it with a T-junction and traffic lights. All three options are due to go before councillors in October.
The council said: “We are currently finalising the contract. Once that process is complete we will be able to provide a date for the start of construction and details of the contractor.”
The Buswatch group withdrew its support for the scheme last year, saying that it believed that the scheme would increase bus journeys.
It has now told members: “Brighton and Hove City Council has appointed a contractor to implement phases 1 and 2 between St Peter’s Place and Church Street/Edward Street.
“Work could begin on site in early September and is expected to last up to 17 months, which is an improvement on the previous prediction of two years.
“Brighton and Hove Bus services are currently running more reliably than for many years. This is reflected in fewer complaints to us or comments on social media than over previous summers.
“It will be a huge challenge for this reliability to be maintained during the Valley Gardens construction period and beyond.”
The council said: “The aim of the Valley Gardens project is to realise the full potential of the area and make it a more attractive and purposeful city amenity.
“This will be done by simplifying the existing highway network, making the journey through less complicated and easier for all users, including improving cycle and pedestrian networks.
“The changes will also ensure better safety for transport users and result in better air quality in the area.
“Simplifying and improving the transport network will create an opportunity to reclaim some of the green area and enhance its value as a public space.
“New paths will be created across the public spaces making it a much nicer place to walk through.
“Most central park spaces will remain lawned areas for general use and a significant number of new trees will be planted, some of which will be new elms to protect the city’s elm heritage into the future.”
Councillor Gill Mitchell, who chairs the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said: “This is a significant moment in the Valley Gardens project. I am pleased that Dyer and Butler have been awarded the contract and we can look forward to construction getting under way in the near future.
“The aim of the project is to simplify the transport network in the area, making it easier for local residents and visitors to the city to get around.
“The area’s green spaces will also be improved, making it a much more appealing environment to be enjoyed by local residents and visitors.
“A lot of planning is taking place to minimise disruption and keep traffic moving with good communication for local residents and businesses throughout.”
Paul Allan, senior contract manager at Dyer and Butler, Part of M Group Services, said: “Dyer and Butler are exceptionally pleased to be awarded such a prestigious project and are looking forward to working with the project team and their stakeholders to ensure its successful delivery.”