Roads Minister Robert Goodwill has officially opened the south west’s first smart motorway.
The scheme covers seven miles of motorway around the Almondsbury interchange and includes junctions 19-20 on the M4 and junctions 15-17 on the M5. It will help reduce congestion and improve safety and journey times by introducing variable speed limits and opening the hard shoulder during busy traffic periods.
Goodwill (pictured) said: “Every day, more than 140,000 vehicles use this section of motorway which is an essential gateway to the south west. That is why the government has invested almost £90 million to help improve access and traffic flow on this vital route.
“This is the first smart motorway in the region and I’m delighted that road users and businesses will be able to benefit from the improvements earlier than planned.”
The smart motorway was delivered within the £88.6 million budget and completed two months ahead of schedule by working closely with contractor Balfour Beatty.
More than 2,000 people have worked on the scheme since construction started in January 2012, almost 50 of which were from the local area. This has included subcontractor HW Martin, who provided traffic management services from their depot near junction 18 of the M4 and Marshfield-based earthworks company MJ Church.
Materials, such as the concrete, roadstone and surfacing materials have been sourced locally, for example from Stancombe Quarry in Bristol. Asset International also provided temporary traffic barriers from their site in Newport.
The improvements to the M4 and M5 use a range of technologies and operational systems to reduce congestion and smooth the flow of traffic. During busy periods, traffic officers in the regional control centre at Avonmouth will set overhead message signs to inform drivers they can use the hard shoulder as an extra lane and at what speed to drive.
Highways Agency senior project manager Paul Unwin said: “The M4 and M5 scheme demonstrates how a smart and efficient solution can deliver improvements that road users need – more capacity and better management of traffic to reduce congestion and make journey times more reliable.
“We’re pleased to see local businesses and commuters already experiencing the benefits of the smart motorway and have received feedback to this effect.”
The project included the installation of 33 new gantries, refurbishing seven existing ones, resurfacing over 14 miles of carriageway, laying over 30 miles of fibre optic cabling and constructing six emergency refuge areas.