A traffic scheme costing more than £4m could be completed in less than two years to slash delays at one of Barnsley’s congestion hotspots, though the changes will involve driving a new road through a suburban park.
Barnsley Council has been forced to act to free up traffic flow around the Dodworth Road crossroads at Broadway because congestion has intensified to the point where tailbacks on the southbound M1 are being predicted without action.
Journey times from junction 37 into the town centre have almost trebled in less than two decades, going from a morning rush hour average of ten minutes in 2000 to around 27 minutes today.
The solution is to install a new ring road to replace the crossroads at Dodworth Road, a project which will be jointly financed with money from Barnsley Council and the Sheffield City Region, but the new carriageway will be on Penny Pie Park, a green space off the junction of Dodworth Road and Broadway.
Barnsley Council’s ruling Cabinet have approved that scheme as the best from around 37 considered by council officers over several years.
Although it will affect the park, other options would have involved demolishing homes or taking people’s domestic gardens to provide extra carriageway space and the results would have had less impact on traffic levels.
The scheme will involve creating a one-way ring road on land currently occupied by the park and although much of the land will remain for public use, a large central section will be surrounded by the carriageway, with pelican crossings installed to allow safe public access.
As a result, the council has carried out a work to assess that and will be consulting the public on the best ways to address the situation, which is likely to involve removing existing play and leisure equipment and re-siting it when the new road is installed.
Council major projects group leader Rachael Allington said: “There is a significant impact on the green space. We have had an appraisal to mitigate the impact as much as possible.”
In addition, there are plans to upgrade other public spaces in the area, to provide alternatives.
She added that the project was needed to help safeguard the future of the town centre area: “It addresses existing congestion issues and also helps the council achieve future growth aspirations.
“We recognise what is happening in the town centre. We want to improve traffic flow to encourage people to come to our town centre and reduce leakage to other centres, like Meadowhall.”
The council will now move forwards with a planning application for the scheme, which is expected in September, and will then tender for a contractor to do the work.
Unless obstacles arise, it is expected that work will start around April 2019 and take around a year to complete.
Barnsley Council started work on looking at options for improving traffic flow in the area in 2009 and since then has considered multiple options, including changes to the existing crossroads, demolishing homes to make the approach on Dodworth Road from the M1 wider and installing an alternative ‘gyratory’ system further along Dodworth Road towards the town centre.
Statistics suggest the sharp rise in delays and congestion seen in recent years would continue without any intervention, leaving traffic queuing back onto the M1 at peak times – something regarded as unacceptable.
When the need for action was first identified, money was available from central Government for such projects, but rules have since changed, meaning the project will be part funded by Barnsley Council with a similar amount of money coming from the Sheffield City Region.
But the SCR involvement means progress is expected with the scheme, to ensure the funding ties up with that body’s financial commitments.
The new proposals also signals the end of ideas to create a park and ride facility at Dodworth, which had initially been raised by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
That was seen as a way of reducing car journeys into and out of the town centre, but was undermined by several problems, including the fact that available land was not adjacent to the railway station in Dodworth.
It was also acknowledged by council officials that it is difficult to ensure that park and ride schemes have the practical impact on traffic levels that are anticipated when schemes are proposed.
Those uncertainties meant the security of a scheme which could be shown, through computerised ‘modelling’ to provide long term answers to congestion was a safer way to progress.