Upgrade to busy Bridgwater roundabout won’t begin until early-2025
One of Bridgwater’s busiest road junctions won’t be upgraded until early-2025.
The Cross Rifles roundabout links the A38 from Highbridge and Taunton to the A39 from Glastonbury and The Clink, which links to one of Bridgwater’s busiest commercial sites and leads into the town centre. Somerset County Council secured just over £10m from the government’s levelling up fund in late-2021 to upgrade the ‘Bridgwater northern corridor’, which includes both the Cross Rifles and Dunball roundabouts.
But while the Dunball scheme is already under way, motorists using the Cross Rifles roundabout will have to wait at least another 18 months before work at that location can commence. The roundabout is named after the pub on its northern side, which in turn takes its name from the Monmouth Rebellion on 1685, wherein the Duke of Monmouth led a rebellion among Protestant lords in the West Country in a bid to depose the Catholic king, James II.
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The roundabout is narrow and frequently congested, with limited walking and cycling provision. The A38 Broadway – which leads into the roundabout from the south – is currently being upgraded by Somerset Council as part of its rolling traffic signal replacement programme, with work on the £1.7m scheme expected to conclude at the end of June.
The council has not published any initial designs for the Cross Rifles upgrade – though it is likely, given the signalisation of the Dunball roundabout, that a similar scheme may be implemented to ease traffic flow to and from the M5. A spokesman said: “This is a complex scheme which involves the acquisition of land in the immediate area. Work is ongoing to progress this and involves several parties.
“We’re not able to outline costs at this point as land negotiation can be a difficult process and is subject to variables depending on agreements reached. We can confirm that we have received just under £5m from the government’s levelling up fund, and a further £2m was allocated from Hinkley Point C and the north-east Bridgwater developments.”
The north-east Bridgwater housing allocation will eventually comprise 2,000 homes between the A39 Bath Road and the Bristol to Exeter railway line. The majority of the site has already been delivered by Persimmon Homes South West and Hallam Land Management, with Bloor Homes being granted permission in November 2022 for 237 homes on one of the final remaining parcels on King’s Drive, opposite Willowdown Primary Academy.
The council is attempting to time the Cross Rifles upgrade to take place after work on the Dunball roundabout (which is currently expected to be finished in February 2024) and after the delivery of the Celebration Mile in the town centre (which is expected to get under way in October).
The spokesman added: “As with any major scheme, outlining specific timings is difficult when there are so many moving parts. Our aim would be to commence construction early in 2025.”
Councillor Diogo Rodrigues, shadow portfolio holder for transport and digital, said that he was “hugely disappointed” that this scheme was being delayed. He said: “I recognise that there are inflationary pressures on cost, but this is a scheme that was announced only a few months ago and inflationary pressures would have been considered when bidding for the funding.
“The scheme is meant to create additional capacity for traffic, cutting journey times and congestion and boost the transport connectivity in and around Bridgwater. Many of the new housing developments in Bridgwater, especially those in Bower and Kingsdown, are betting on the improvement of key junctions like this one to reduce the traffic pressures that new developments will create.
“If the council cannot deliver this key infrastructure project, then how can these new housing developments, which will create huge pressure on our road infrastructure, go ahead?
“My other concern is whether this is the start of a domino effect, and will we see other schemes across the county start to fall back too? Has Somerset Council got the £29m they had to deliver the Octagon Theatre improvements in Yeovil?
“If so, then a debate must be had as to whether this money would be better spent on improving traffic pressures for people across the county. After all, if you can’t get to the theatre because your stuck in gridlock, what’s the point of the theatre?”