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Exeter Greens condemn city road widening scheme as poor value for money

By exetergreens  |  Posted: December 16, 2012

Alphington Road widening - two empy lanes and traffic backed up at Exe Bridges

Alphington Road widening - two empy lanes and traffic backed up at Exe Bridges

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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."

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  • cesaro  |  December 19 2012, 11:17AM

    Have the "exetergreens" looked into a road linking Millbrook Lane off Topsham Rd to Marsh Barton ,they are readying a development in the area. It looks so close but I realise it would be an expensive option due to river,canal and railway crossings, but what cost public health for eternty. That should get the nimby's going.

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  • cesaro  |  December 19 2012, 10:52AM

    Whilst I concur with most of what souproll_ states, I would just point out that I live next to a busy dual carriageway arterial route and if you think our pollution is bad you aint seen nothing yet !! whilst in China a few years ago it was like a constant fog/mist situation hanging all over the cities and I had to resort to using a mask as it was causing me respiratory problems. We certainly dont want to get in that state over here but luckily it still has a long way to go so perhaps we can resolve the causes like they seem to have in Prague with their excellent tram system. I know, we had one but got rid after the war.

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  • souproll_  |  December 18 2012, 11:46PM

    This is interesting all I've seen so far is people talking about congestion of traffic and no mention in the comments about the real problem that air pollution is for residents on these arterial routes into the city. Air pollution is a killer and causes significant respiratory problems in children and shortens lifespan and wellbeing. http://tinyurl.com/78zsdqe and before you start to think it's only a problem in China or developing nations look here: http://tinyurl.com/ygtpapr It's been a well known and considerable problem for a long time and yet it's being ignored by national and local governments alike. Whilst I can understand the self interest of those who wish to drive their cars anywhere and any-when they want I just think this presumption of a 'right' completely misses the point that Mr Bell is making, which is that spending money on encouraging more traffic flow does nothing to tackle what it a deeply embedded systemic problem, not just in our highways infrastructure and our public transport provisions (with all the revisions that it needs!) but culturally too! How exactly do we have a more responsive, responsible and healthy community if we're all in these metal boxes choking off anyone that isn't? Also think that Cesaro brings up a really good point, because not visiting the city centre and having to go online for everything creates a difficult local economic problem (and perhaps - not that I'm saying Cesaro does - one in that situation could even begin to feel a little isolated.). So the issue as I see it is that it's one of accessibility not mobility, certainly as we experience peak oil and also the other problems of air pollution and climate change opportunities to move about as we have are challenged; we need the accessibility to the amenities and services local decentralised and accessible to people in the local areas so that we can have a more fluid relationship with our city centre and our local communities - seems a lot healthier to me.

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  • cesaro  |  December 18 2012, 10:48PM

    Well getting everyone on the buses will not work nor walking into the city, you could cycle if you don't value your bicycle as you are likely to lose it , it is too expensive,inconvenient and dont get me started on parking charges. I have solved my problems of visiting the city centre , by not visiting the city centre and doing most of my shopping online, I only venture into the city centre twice a year to visit my dentist. a great pity as eventually the shopping centre will die if enough people do as I do. I am entitled to a free bus pass, yet I still need to drive my car to catch the bus or it takes forever. In the current economic conditions there is no way the buses can ever be cost effective/regular/convenient enough to entice people out of their cars ,they will just continue to visit the out of town shops I am afraid. Still looking on the bright side, that will solve the polution and traffic problems within the city.

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  • exetergreens  |  December 18 2012, 9:13PM

    Yes we need cheaper bus travel (which the Green Party has campaigned on and helped deliver - the £1 child add on off-peak fare came as a result of a campaign led by us and others). The main issue here is whether road widening is £1million well spent, given the appalling congestion and air pollution problems that continue to plague Exe Bridges and Alphington Road. Improved bus priority measures were promised years ago as part of the package of measures for Exe Bridges/Alphington Road corridor, but they haven't been delivered. Why not? wouldn't that have been a better use of £1 million? New bridges over the river will not work because there is no space for additional roads. We cannot build our way out of congestion and air pollution. The only solution is to reduce levels of traffic. That involves some hard decisions and radical measures such as workplace parking charges for the largest businesses and ring-fencing the money raised from sucgh a measure to help those same businesses with green travel plans and to invest in public transport, cycling and walking. All of which will mean a healthier environment and healthier people! Not to mention the economic benefits from less congestion.

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  • cesaro  |  December 17 2012, 9:24PM

    I must admit I have never ever been in a traffic jam caused by either railway bridge, generally just volume of traffic held up by various traffic light systems. The river bridges on the other hand have continually caused hold ups even on the old bypass at countess weir particularly when they used to open on a more regular basis. but even now its dual carriagways either side and single file over the old swing bridge backing traffic right up to countess weir roundabout. The railway crossing at st davids helps out quite a bit normally but even thats closed at present increasing volumes at exe bridges

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  • StthomBin  |  December 17 2012, 6:54PM

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The plans for these changes were available for nearly 2 years if my memory serves me right. They have done more or less exactly what they said they were going to do. Exe bridges to Alphington Road via Alphington Street will always be a problem due to the narrowing under the railway bridge. Perhaps something different could be tried. Make Exe Bridges a roundabout, rather than a traffic light controlled mess that it is now. Make Alphinton Street, Alphington Road, Cowick Street and Cowick lane a one way system. Normally, I support the Green party, but in this case, I am not sure that Andrew Bell is really complaining about the right thing. Better, cheaper, public transport in Exeter, and especially along Alphington Road, would be a better target than "road improvements to in Place A had no impact in Place B".

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  • Cerberus2010  |  December 17 2012, 1:44PM

    There seems little/no point in road widening schemes or additional river crossings as long as the railway bridges in Alphington Road and Cowick Street remain unchanged.

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  • cesaro  |  December 16 2012, 7:43PM

    So we need more river crossings ?? well why not put them in. Its the only way you will solve the congestion problems around the bottle neck bridges throughout the city and they will and do only get more expensive year on year, instead of providing bicycle only bridges why not put in a multi purpose bridge ??? and solve three problems in one even if at more expense, but cheaper in the long run on all counts.

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  • MrVanKleefe  |  December 16 2012, 1:46PM

    The Ide interchange is gridlocked at peak times quite often with a combination of commercial vehicles and cars. Putting a park and ride near it would just gridlock the buses, unless they widened the road on that side as well.

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