HIGHWAY engineers at Kent County Council have unveiled a new plan to tackle town centre congestion in Maidstone.
All traffic travelling northbound along the A229 through Maidstone, from Bishops Way to Fairmeadow, has first to cross the Maidstone Bridge and then back across the River Medway via St Peter’s Bridge.
The so-called bridge gyratory system has become one of the most congested parts of Maidstone, used by an estimated 50,000 vehicles a day.
Under KCC’s outline £550,000 plan the 20,000 motorists who travel across the system each day from Bishops Way will no longer have to cross the river to get to Fairmeadow.
Instead, room will be created for two new lanes allowing northbound A229 traffic to head straight on instead of going round the gyratory system.
Traffic driving into Maidstone from Tonbridge Road and London Road will still use the bridge system with new traffic lights installed for motorists wanting to turn right from St Peter’s Bridge to join the southbound A229 towards Palace Avenue.
KCC highways engineer Peter Rosevere said: "The current layout of the gyratory forces all northbound A229 traffic to turn west over the old bridge and then return to the eastern bank by St Peter’s Bridge. This system was introduced in the late 1970s when it had to cope with much lower traffic flows.
"The proposed improvement would create two northbound lanes between the existing carriageway, and the river.
"Preliminary investigations with a computer traffic model suggests that this would be a worthwhile scheme in terms of managing traffic, showing the benefit of reduced congestion and delays.
"It would also ease the problem of increasing traffic on St Peter Street, caused by additional residential and retail development."
The scheme is still subject to a feasibility study. Issues include the exact layout and the costs of moving a power sub-station. If agreement is reached work could start next year.
Maidstone Borough Council’s cabinet member for environment and transportation Cllr Malcolm Robertson(Lib Dem), said he was concerned the scheme could take focus away from other major schemes jointly prioritised by the two councils last year.
He said: "It will have a substantial environmental impact and we need that the benefit will outweigh the impact.
"There is also the danger that it will solve problems for northbound traffic but make congestion worse for traffic coming from the London and Tonbridge Roads.
"We would prefer the focus to remain on those schemes which we have prioritised - the All Saints Link Road, the widening of Upper Stone Street and the Leeds Langley bypass."