A road widening scheme costing nearly £1million has been condemned as poor value for money by the Green Party in Exeter.
The Alphington Road scheme involved disruptive changes to junctions and the widening of a short section of outbound carriageway to two lanes. The justification for the scheme, according to Devon County Council, was to relieve congestion and improve air quality along one of Exeter's busiest corridors. However, Greens claim the expensive changes have done nothing to improve air quality further back towards the city centre at Exe Bridges, one of the city's pollution hot spots.
Green Party member Andrew Bell, candidate for St David's and St James in the forthcoming County Council elections, raised a series of questions at a recent Exeter Board meeting which is made up of councillors from both Exeter City and Devon County Councils. This prompted a written response from Devon County Council.
Andrew Bell said: "Road widening schemes are not always good value and often fail to deliver intended benefits in terms of relieving congestion or improving air quality. The Alphington Road widening scheme is a good example of this. Knocking a few seconds off journey time for outbound drivers while serious congestion and air pollution remain further back along a road is not a good use of £1 million. What makes this scheme particularly wasteful is that the section of road widened never faced serious congestion anyway. This seems little more than an expensive cosmetic exercise. The result is two lanes which are empty for much of the time, while the traffic still backs up at Exe Bridges! The money for this scheme came largely from Local Transport Funding and would have been much better spent improving the cycling network and the quality of pavements and the walking environment generally. It could also have delivered significant bus priority measures, something that was promised around Exe Bridges years ago but has yet to be delivered".
The Green Party says it is not satisfied with the response on the question of air quality around Exe Bridges; the Party claims the road widening scheme has done nothing to relieve congestion or improve air quality at this much polluted part of the city.
Andrew said: It is clear from responses to our questions that there have been no tests on air quality in the Exe Bridges area since the completion of the road widening scheme. So we don't know whether the anticipated reduction in nitrogen oxide has occurred. I doubt it very much; and anyway, it was only forecast to reduce by 7%, which further demonstrates that this whole scheme was money badly spent".
Andrew concluded: "We need a strategic and radical approach to addressing Exeter's appalling air quality. The Green Party has the vision and the practical ideas for relieving traffic congestion in Exeter. A few expensive road schemes just wont do the job."