Published: 09:19, 18 December 2018
| Updated: 15:48, 18 December 2018
Sheppey's eagerly-awaited Lower Road roundabout has finally opened.
The £1.8 million roundabout at the junction of Barton Hill Drive and the A2500 Lower Road at Minster was initially set to open at 1.30pm.
But it was delayed until 3.30pm.
However, traffic is said to be queueing along the Lower Road and Queenborough Road in Halfway.
One driver said it took over 35 minutes to get from Cowstead Corner to the Thistle Hill Community Centre at about 3.15pm.
Barton Hill Drive, which has been closed for 14 weeks while the work has been carried out, has also reopened.
The roundabout is the first phase of a £6.65 million scheme to improve the road, replacing traffic lights at the junction.
Construction started in June and over 21,000 hours have been worked, removing 4,000 cubic metres of soil, bringing in 6,500 tonnes of aggregate and laying 3,800 square metres of asphalt for the new road surface.
Further temporary road closures and/or night-time working will be required to fully complete the tie-ins of the new roundabout to the existing road. These will be scheduled for January, with all works for this part of the scheme on schedule to be completed in February.
Cllr Mike Whiting, KCC cabinet member planning, highways, transport and waste, said it was fantastic to see the roundabout opened before Christmas.
He added: "We've always known Lower Road is a key route on Sheppey and any issue can cause gridlock across the Island.
"I am grateful to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), Swale council and, of course, MP Gordon Henderson for working with us to secure the funding and thank you to our contractors Breheny Civil Engineering for building the scheme."
Phase two – a £4.85m project to widen the 1.1km stretch of road from Cowstead Corner to Barton Hill Drive – is due to follow next spring, funded by a further £3.2m provided from the National Productivity Investment Fund together with contributions from local developments.
The widening scheme will include a shared footpath and cycle route.
MP Gordon Henderson said: "For years I have been campaigning for something to be done to relieve the daily misery that has been inflicted on motorists using the Lower Road, which also impacts on other local roads.
"So I am delighted that the new roundabout is now in place and very much hope it will go some way to reduce traffic congestion in the area."
Cllr Andrew Bowles, leader of Swale council, added: “The local community has suffered serious congestion along this stretch of the Lower Road for too long and this is the first step in trying to resolve this.
"We, along with the local parish councils, are keen to have more reliable access to Minster and for the communities at the eastern end of the Island, not only to make residents’ journeys that bit easier, but also to support the Island’s visitor economy."
More by this authorChloe Holmwood