Work starts on vital A39 active travel corridor in West Somerset

Work commenced this week on a major piece of infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians travelling between Dunster and Minehead.

Somerset County Council’s Highways Team is improving and widening an existing cycleway and footway running along the A39 between the two towns to ensure residents and visitors can travel safely by bike or foot.

The £1 million scheme, collaboratively funded through internal partners including Somerset County Council Highways , Public Health and Transport Policy, includes connecting to new cycling and walking infrastructure linking the Marsh Lane development at Dunster Marsh with the A39 pathway, which will link in turn with West Somerset College, creating a safe route to school.

Work continues and temporary 40-mph limit and traffic lights are now in place on the A39 for the duration of the project to ensure the safety of the workforce and public. The lights will be operated manually during peak hours to minimise disruption. We currently testing a system whereby the lights are removed from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon and two-way traffic is restored to reduce disruption during holiday park changeover times.

We’ve had a number of questions about the scheme from members of the public which we’ve answered below:

Q: Why the Traffic Management is required?

A: Traffic management is required to maintain a safe working zone for the workforce and maintain safety for the public, as well as providing alternative routes and facilities for diverted pedestrians whilst the works are being undertaken.

Q: Why can’t the works be done at night?

A: Night working would be noisy for nearby residents and would be more costly because it would still require traffic management or potential temporary reinstatement works to make safe.  Undertaking works at night would also require mobile lighting in an otherwise unlit area and is likely to have ecology implications.

Q: Why are you constructing the scheme now?

After careful consideration it was felt autumn was the best time of year because it would cause the least amount of disruption to the local community which is highly dependent on tourism. This largely ruled out the period from April to October which is the busiest time for tourism. We’re making provision for Friday/weekend holiday traffic as detailed below.

Q: Why isn’t the old road being used as a diversion?

A: During the planning of the scheme consideration was given to diverting westbound traffic along the old road, however the condition of the old road was not considered suitable for the volume and type of traffic using A39.  It was also considered a useful safe alternative route for pedestrians and cyclists whilst the works were be undertaken. In any case, any diversion on the old A39 would not have benefitted the first phase of the works.   

Q: Why can’t the traffic management be removed for the peak movement to and from Butlins?

This is now being trialled – however it does limit the working week to 3 days (removing the TM Friday morning in readiness for Friday pm and remobilising Monday afternoon) and will lengthen the construction programme (as well as increase costs). We will continue to monitor the situation.

Q: Do we really need this infrastructure?

A: Yes – there has been a long-standing local aspiration to upgrade this facility so people can safely cycle or walk between Minehead and Dunster. What is currently there is not fit for purpose.

Q: Why is the work being undertaken on a traffic sensitive route?

A: Sometimes it is necessary to undertake works on traffic sensitive routes and in this case unfortunately there isn’t a suitable diversion route.

Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital Cllr Mike Rigby said: “It’s really pleasing to see this important scheme commence to provide a much-needed active travel corridor between these two towns.
“Improving our walking and cycling provision across the county is a major priority for this council, to enable people to use more sustainable modes of transport,
which benefits their health and wellbeing and the environment.”

For all your Somerset County Council Highways updates on traffic, roadworks and major projects follow @travelsomerset on Twitter and Facebook or visit http://www.travelsomerset.co.uk.

Submitted by Communications