Drivers who use one of the busiest stretches of the A1 in the North East breathed a huge sigh of relief today as two years of delays came to an end.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin officially opened the new £61million stretch of the A1 near Gateshead, from Coal House (Junction 60) to the MetroCentre (Junction 71).
The four-mile stretch, which has been widened from two lane to three in both directions, will help tackle congestion, benefiting the 116,000 drivers who use the A1 every day.
It is part of the government’s £15billion roads investment strategy, which is transforming the road network and improving connections between cities.
More than 300 jobs have been created by the project, with 97% of the construction workers required coming from the North East.
Mr McLoughlin said: "This major upgrade to the A1 is part of the most ambitious, far-reaching road investment strategy for decades.
“It will not only benefit those who use the road every day, but deliver jobs and opportunities, benefiting families across the North of England.
“Schemes like this are a crucial part of our plan to create a Northern Powerhouse, connecting our cities and towns and ensuring economic growth is spread more evenly across the UK.”
In total, eight miles of extra lanes have been added to the A1, increasing the number of lanes in each direction from two to three.
Two new parallel link roads have also been created along a third-of-a-mile stretch of the A1 between Lobley Hill and Gateshead Quays.
Twelve miles of new kerbs have been laid, made from recycled plastic bottles, and 150,000 square metres of resurfacing has also been carried out – the equivalent of 21 football pitches.
A new footbridge has been installed over the A1 at Chiltern Gardens, suitable for cyclists as well as pedestrians, and the footpath at the eastern side has been upgraded.
A new 600-metre cycle track has also been created, crossing the footbridge and linking up with the local cycle network.
Highways England project manager Lynne Biddles said: “This project has taken us less than two years to complete and will provide vital transport improvements on this stretch of the A1, reducing congestion and increasing capacity.
“The extra lanes will benefit the thousands of drivers who use the route every day. We would like to thank drivers and the local community for their patience while this work has been taking place, and are pleased they can now benefit from the completed upgrade.”
Contractors for Highways England will still be on the site over the next few weeks to complete minor work such as landscaping.