A decision on the existing Army and Navy flyover is expected “imminently”, Chelmsford’s member of Parliament has told constituents.
The flyover was closed indefinitely at the beginning of August following structural damage caused by over-expansion of the metal structure during the summer heat wave.
It is now believed the flyover may never reopen, causing severe congestion at the busy junction until a solution to replace it is found.
But Vicky Ford MP has added that a decision on whether the flyover is irreparable or not is expected very soon.
“Regarding reopening the existing flyover, safety must come first and we are expecting a decision on the future of the existing structure imminently,” she wrote in a letter on September 4.
“If it cannot be reopened safely within a reasonable period of time, then I believe it should be removed as soon as possible.
“This would shorten the timetable for building a long term solution once the preferred new scheme is agreed.”
Earlier repairs to the flyover which added extra rigidity to the structure are believed to have precipitated even worse damage when hot weather led to expansion of the metal frame, which was not allowed to flex properly.
That in turn subsequently led to significant movement of the footings.
The Army and Navy junction is now operating at 97 per cent capacity during morning peak times and 95 per cent in afternoon peak times.
Each day, up to 60,000 vehicles use the junction and 10,000 of those vehicles use the flyover when it is open.
In the meantime it is claimed problems at the junction could take as many as three years to solve.
The 41-year-old flyover was built in 1978 as a temporary structure, expected at the time to last just four years.
Traffic was able to cope reasonably well while schools were off during the summer holidays, but in the past few days Chelmsford has seen considerable delays, with some experiencing journey times of an additional 15 minutes.
One resident said: “The closure of the Army and Navy flyover has had a profound effect on the journey times from Galleywood to Chelmsford town centre due to additional traffic diverting down the B1007 to avoid Baddow Road and Baddow bypass queues.
“Our peak time journey has gone from approximately 25 minutes to approximately 40 minutes now schools are back.”
Ms Ford added: “Regarding the Army and Navy, I am extremely concerned that the flyover has had to close indefinitely.
“It is imperative that we urgently find a long-term solution to the junction. Before any new scheme can be built a robust process of design, environmental and other assessments and a public consultation is needed.
“Thanks to the work of the Army and Navy Task Force the first stages of this process are already completed.
“Yesterday (September 3) I met the Secretary of State for Transport, and the Under Secretary of State for Transport, along with representatives from Essex County Council, in order to keep the focus from national government on this issue.
“The Secretary of State has agreed that this project should be treated as an immediate priority.
“I have invited the minister for come and see the junction first hand.”
Essex County Council has commissioned a review of possible mitigation actions in order to reduce congestion at the junction.
These include improved warning signs on the A12 and other routes suggesting drivers avoid the centre of Chelmsford, increasing bus services from the Park and Ride at Sandon, preventing non-emergency road works in areas that could have an impact on the Army and Navy and re-phasing of traffic lights at the roundabout.