Small solutions

One aspect of transport planning which i find unintelligible is the reluctance to attempt small solutions to a problem instead of the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut which seems most favoured by the British public sector.

An example recently began construction nearby on the A39 at Marksbury (Google StreetView link / B&NES rationale). Due to relatively high levels of evening peak traffic choosing the use the A39 and B3116 to access Keynsham rather than the congested route of the A4 through Saltford, Bath & North East Somerset Council has chosen to build a new right hand turn filter lane from the westbound A39 on to the B3116. To complete this project, a construction site of mammoth proportions has been founded, and will remain in place for some three months. A large section of the farming land to the south has also been gobbled up.

My question is why did this project need such an elaborate solution? Traffic delays caused by right turning vehicles could mostly have been mitigated by a much smaller widening of the road and re-phasing the traffic lights to allow more vehicles to turn across the junction. Traffic flows eastbound towards Bath are lower during the evening peak, so this shouldn’t have required a massive level of engineering to achieve.

I think that part of the problem stems from the lack of a percieved prestige of solving problems without grand gestures. Local Government seems to thrive from producing glossy publicity congratulating themselves for doing a marvellous job of such projects without questionning whether the logic behind the decision to carry out the job was sound in the first place.

Such transport infrastructure “problems” requiring a solution are prevalent throughout the area. Because there is limited funding available and because solutions seem to be so elaborate, very few actually get resolved. All of the local councils are equally guilty of this.

Ban(well) this filth.
One such issue exists at the junction of the A368 and A371 in Banwell. The narrow centre of the village was simply not constructed with the vision of forty tonne artics meeting 12m buses in the area. It has been an issue for as long as there has been traffic on the roads. Rat running around any alternative route (which then causes further congestion at this attempts to rejoin in awkward places) exacerbates the problem. Long term transport plans almost always refer to the intention to bypass the village centre, but there are no firm plans in place to achieve this in the short or medium term.

I believe that the desire of the council to achieve a complete bypass to the village is the root of the problem. A new 2km circuit to the north of Banwell built to lavish standards would undoubtedly solve the traffic problems, but it would also cost tens of millions of pounds. If there is some acceptance that the level of traffic in the area has stabilised and that roads do not need to be built to accommodate a further massive growth in vehicle numbers, then why not build a smaller solution to address the core problem?

Image Copyright Google Maps.banwell.jpg

The core problem here is that the section of West Street between the Emery Gate and Bell Inn (as marked on the above map) cannot comfortably accommodate two lanes of traffic. The Church Street junction is also troublesome. So why not make this section one way, probably Northbound only? South/Eastbound traffic could then be diverted along a modest, one way route (with pavements) running across from the Children’s Centre car park (to the west of the above image), cross Riverside and rejoin East Street to the east of the above image. Effectively East Street, West Street and the new route become a sizeable roundabout, with improved access to Church Street and Riverside as a result. The resulting junctions such as (West Street/East Street/Castle Hill) and (West Street/Car Park) would not be perfect, but would be considerably easier to negotiate with care than the current arrangements.

Total requirement? About 500-600m of new roadway, single carriageway. Some minor junction modification and signage. Most of a major problem solved at a fraction of the cost of a grand, elaborate scheme.

There are other places which would benefit from some small scale thinking. Stockwood Vale between Stockwood and Keynsham is a similar situation to Banwell. 250-300m of new, single track road and a one way system would cure the bottleneck entirely.

Surely now is the time to consider smaller scale solutions to problems which would make a huge difference to people who travel through them regularly?

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