Published: 17:33, 24 August 2021
| Updated: 18:00, 24 August 2021
A major junction upgrade to ease congestion on one of the county's biggest industrial estates is set to come in more than £500,000 over budget.
The project to build a new slip road on the edge of the Medway City Estate in Strood is now expected to cost £2 million.
Papers published by Medway Council reveal the increase is due to rising prices of building materials as a result of Covid – an issue being felt by authorities across the country.
The authority also says costs are being driven up by contractors "being more selective" about which tenders they bid for to carry out works following a "significant demand for construction" after the pandemic lockdowns.
Earlier this week, Medway Highways published a tweet saying a six-month construction phase would begin on September 10.
When asked for further details by the Messenger, a council spokesman said this had been posted in error and a start date is yet to be confirmed.
A recommendation to transfer £384,542 from the council's transport budget was approved by cabinet members during a meeting on Tuesday afternoon to help fund the shortfall.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), portfolio holder for planning, economic growth and regulation said: "This has always been a massive challenge and any concerted work to try and alleviate the problems there is something to be welcomed.
"Those businesses there have found the difficulties of getting off the site considerable."
Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett said the scheme was "very important to relieving pressures" at peak times coming off the estate.
"It's been a bottleneck for some time," he added. "The work that's ongoing on this should alleviate that considerably."
Funding from developers worth £133,536 has already been allocated for the overall Medway City Estate junction scheme.
Additional funding needs were identified by the council at the start of the new financial year in April to reduce the impact on other highways schemes around the Towns.
The new slip road on the Anthony's Way roundabout which meets the A289 and Medway Tunnel will aim to crack almost daily traffic jams leaving the estate in the evening rush-hour under plans revealed in 2019.
Pre-pandemic surveys found some 6,000 people were employed on the Medway City Estate with workers facing 45-minute queues to leave on particularly busy days.
The new road would bypass the roundabout by McDonald's taking drivers straight on to Berwick Way heading for Strood, Hoo and the M2 for London and north Kent.
The slip road is the latest stage in works to tackle congestion as part of an overall scheme which will cost £2.8m.
Phase one was completed in late 2017 and included the installation of traffic lights at the Medway Tunnel and alterations to the roundabout.
The council also put in additional loading and parking restrictions in January 2019.
A grant from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) has already been secured by the council and is worth £1.6m including developer's contributions towards the works.