A £1.4m plan aims to tackle one of Sheffield’s biggest problems – congestion at Junctions 33 and 34 of the M1.
The council wants to find ways to keep traffic moving in areas plagued by jams – but critical to the city’s fortunes.
The issue is so bad plans for a £300m Meadowhall extension have been halted over fears the road layout is ‘inadequate’.
And there are fears congestion could act as a brake on big projects including the Olympic Legacy Park and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District between Catcliffe and Tinsley.
Earlier this year, the Department for Transport announced £1.4m funding for the city council to look at the problem. Now, the authority has hired Leeds-based consultants WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff to come up with answers, including ‘providing additional routes between Sheffield and Rotherham without the need to pass through existing motorway junctions’
Tom Finnegan-Smith, head of highways and transport at Sheffield City Council, said: “This major new review of capacity issues will provide an opportunity to deliver infrastructure that will improve accessibility in the area. Tackling capacity problems will enable the economy to achieve its full potential.”
Peter Kennan, chair of Sheffield Chamber Transport Forum, said: “Congestion at Junction 34 and the links into the city need addressing. Routing traffic away is impractical due to the development of the Innovation District and other plans down the Lower Don Valley.
“Air pollution is known to be a problem and whilst avoiding serious damage to the health of local people is paramount, it would be unacceptable to prevent badly needed economic development because we have not tackled the traffic around M1 Junction 34 for too many years.
“Delays in the tram/train are unacceptable and the network must be further developed. It is good that three lanes on the motorway over the viaduct have been reinstated and it will be hoped that car emissions will further reduce over time with a rapid move to hybrid and electric power and so any study needs to factor in those national trends.”
In December, Highways England asked for a six-month delay on a decision on the Meadowhall extension to allow a ‘full and proper assessment’. Originally due in February, it was pushed back until May 25 at the earliest.
A Highways England spokeswoman said they were working closely with the city council on the feasibility study.
On Meadowhall, she added: “We are continuing to work with the developers and Sheffield City Council to help them provide the necessary information for a comprehensive assessment to take place.”
Meadowhall co-owners, British Land, declined to comment.