MAJOR £12.75million upgrades to town centre road networks could be in the pipeline in a bid to cope with Colchester's growing population.
Essex County Council has applied to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership to help fund a series of projects which include:
• Widening Colne Bank Avenue to two lanes each way between the Albert roundabout and Colne Bank roundabout
• Replacing the bridge in Cowdray Avenue to allow it to be widened to two lanes each way
• Changing the double roundabouts on Ipswich Road and Harwich Road to single roundabouts
Construction could begin as early as later this year and completed in phases but the project will not be finished in its entirety until the opening months of 2018.
A report into the package of improvement says: "Congestion in Colchester is negatively affecting the local economy, especially at key pinch points along the A133.
"These issues restrict traffic flows across the town centre, which leads to unreliable journey times, late deliveries and significant congestion, particularly in the economic vitality of the town centre while delivering operational improvements across the wider town centre area.
"The schemes focus on traffic and congestion reduction, traffic management measures, and replacement of highway infrastructure, to improve the economic vitality of the town centre while delivering operational improvements across the wider town centre area.
"Major growth and strategic development is underway in Colchester. In particular, there is significant development in an area of land to the west of Mile End and south of the A12.
"A development of 2,200 homes is planned, as part of the growth in the whole borough of 19,000 dwellings in the period 2001 to 2023.
"This growth, along with other significant developments in Colchester, places strain on the existing transport network and requires a coordinated integrated transport approach to address the town’s needs."
"This integrated package of schemes will deliver a range of initiatives to encourage and improve access for all modes travelling along and across this corridor.
"The package will also help to reduce general traffic in the town centre as this is an alternative to the main congested route."
Ultimately, the plan could be for the whole of the A133 from the Spring Lane roundabout to the Greenstead roundabout to be made into a dual carriageway by the end of 2021.
Other schemes which have been considered including dualling the Avenue of Remembrance, left turn slips at Colne Bank roundabout, upgrading and improvement of Greenstead roundabout but they have been deemed unsuitable.
- COLCHESTER MP Will Quince has cautiously welcomed the plans, but called for County Hall roads bosses to release details about how much time the works would take.
He said: "In principle I'm never against anything which is going to support our road networks.
"I think it is great they are bidding to bring in investment into Colchester but what we don't want is a situation like the Mile End cycle path which nobody wanted.
"Having said that I appreciate they are highways engineers and know what they are talking about.
"It would be helpful if the county council could come out and clearly state what sort of disruption this is going to cause and how much traffic it will alleviate from our roads.
"I would want to be assured the inevitable disruption and the tax payer's money is going to be worth it."
"The public are very well informed and they know what the roads are like.
Ron Levy, secretary of Colchester Retail Business Association (Corba), who runs a barber shop in St Botolph's Circus, said he would like to see wider roads around the town centre to allow traffic to flow better.
He said: "Any scheme which will improve the traffic flow is bound to be a help but it may only be short term with the number and size of housing developments which are being built in the town.
"If you build 1,000 houses you will probably end up with 1,400 cars but I would say the plans are a good idea."
Mr Levy said the planned opening of an Aldi store in the Colne Bank Retail Park off Cowdray Avenue would increase the traffic even further and he believes an extra lane of traffic nearby would help.
He said: "Cowdray Avenue in particular and another lane of traffic there would be a great help with the proposal for the new supermarket.
"I suspect eventually the Avenue of Remembrance would require another lane of traffic eventually but these schemes are a good start."
Mr Levy said he hopes the plans would help access to the town centre.
He said: "Most of the traffic at peak times is bypassing the town centre.
"But if it increases the flow of vehicles to car parks, especially St Mary's and Priory Street. The traffic flow into the town centre needs to remain to have a positive impact on footfall for shops."