Highways England has announced its preferred route for a £179m scheme to dual a 30-mile section of the A303 south west of Stonehenge.
The announcement for the section of the road between Sparkford and Ilchester follows the recent publication of the preferred route for a £1.6bn plan to put the A303 in a tunnel as it passes the historic monument.
The Government-owned company said that after considering feedback from a consultation earlier this year, together with further assessments, it concluded that Option 1 would provide the best performing route overall.
Chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: ‘The A303 is a vital route between the South West and the rest of the country and this upgrade is absolutely necessary to provide much needed capacity and to relieve the congestion which drivers have suffered for years.
‘People who responded to our consultation earlier this year demonstrated strong support for option one, which closely follows the route of the existing A303 and so would have less impact on the rural setting.
‘We now look forward to continue to work with our partners and the local community to develop more detailed proposals to start construction in 2020.’
Under the current £15bn Road Investment Strategy, the Government is committed to upgrading all remaining sections of the A303 between the M3 and M5 to dual carriageway standard, starting with the two schemes on the A303 and another scheme on the A358 between Taunton and Southfields.
Highways England said the proposed route will offer a high quality dual carriageway with new two-level junction access with local roads and communities.
It said it would also protect biodiversity and improve local access for pedestrians, equestrians and cyclists.
It added that it selected the route as it:
· minimises land-take
· minimises construction in unspoilt rural setting as the route follows the existing corridor very closely
· is preferred by stakeholders and most of the local community as it has less impact on biodiversity
· is the shortest of the 2 options so will provide the best journey time
Formal consultation is due to take place early next year along with the submission of a development consent order planning application.