A raft of possible measures including closing roads and bridges, reducing the width of rural roads and installing temporary speed limits are being considered to counter the continuing deterioration of Northamptonshire’s highways.
Northamptonshire County Council says initiatives introduced in April 2010 have helped improve some roads, but a combination of severe winters and heavy summer rainfall have caused an “accelerated deterioration” of the network.
A report which will be seen by the council’s cabinet next week says that if the authority tried to maintain roads at their current level, there would be an increase in costs to keep them safe, leading to a “downward spiral of decline.”
The council is now proposing several changes to its maintenance programme.
- Installing temporary speed limits and warning signs where roads have reached a state of disrepair and it is “neither practical nor economically sensible” to fix them.
- Closing bridges, roads and paths “when it makes sense to do so and suitable alternatives exists.”
- Reducing the width of some rural roads and introducing passing places, to reduce the number of vehicles using the roads and discourage heavy traffic from using them.
The council says the over-use of some rural roads causes road edges to break up, as they are too narrow for two-way traffic, and reduced width roads already exist in several counties, including Cornwall, Norfolk and Devon.
Other possible measures include extending the five-day repair time in the event of inclement weather, reclassifying roads and looking at involving parish groups in road maintenance.
The proposed measures to alter the Highways Maintenance Initiative (HMI) will be debated at a meeting of Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet on Wednesday.
The report’s author, Debbie Thorne, said: “The successive severe winters and increased rainfall during the summer months have resulted in an accelerated deterioration of the road network.
“If it were not for the HMI the situation would have been much worse. This means that there are still many roads that require significant investment.”