The link between Liverpool Road in Penwortham and the Guild Way flyover into Preston is to shut when the new Penwortham bypass opens next month.
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet confirmed the controversial move, in spite of a 1,200-signature petition and hundreds of objections from locals.
Highways bosses concluded that it would “lessen the benefits of the bypass” to keep the connection open to motorised traffic - but it will remain available to pedestrians, cyclists and horseriders.
All other traffic from the town will still be able to access the flyover via the ‘Penwortham Triangle’ junction - at Liverpool Road and Leyland Road - which is currently being redesigned.
The slip road closure will also allow for the creation of a segregated “cycle superhighway” running uninterrupted from Hutton into Preston city centre.
County Cllr Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways, described the current road layout as “a bottleneck” and said that the changes would make Penwortham “a nicer place to be”.
Traffic modelling has predicted that shutting the slip road will take an average of 2,000 vehicle trips per day out of the town centre, in addition to those expected to be diverted to the new bypass. More than 7,000 daily trips are forecast to continue along the route. Currently, that figure is around 25,000.
But several Penwortham business-owners - concerned at the potential impact on custom - said that County Hall should have put the brakes on the closure until after the opening of the bypass, so that traffic flow could be monitored in reality rather than in theory.
“It might not even be necessary to shut the slip road - it could all level out once the bypass opens, so they should have waited to see what happens,” said Pamela Jane, who has run her eponymous florist on Liverpool Road for 25 years.
“We all rely on passing trade to some extent, so you don’t want the town centre to become too quiet. Look at what’s happened in Broughton where they did something similar when their bypass opened - it’s like a ghost town now.”
As part of a wider package of measures for Penwortham town centre, the speed limit on the section of Liverpool Road between Crookings Lane and Cop Lane will be reduced to 20mph. However, traffic-calming features like speed bumps and chicanes have so far been ruled out over concerns that they would inconvenience locals.
“It beggars belief that they are just going ahead with this before they know for certain how the traffic situation will change,” said Russell Clayton, who works at Penwortham Garage and led a backlash from businesses against the slip road closure when it was first mooted over the summer.
“I’m just so disheartened by it.”
When planning permission was granted for the Penwortham bypass, it required that measures were put in place to “discourage” traffic in the town centre.
The new road - to be known as John Horrocks Way - is due to open on 2nd December.
EVERY SECOND COUNTS
Specialist software designed to predict the impact of different road layouts calculates that there will be a reduction in morning rush-hour delays of up to 47 seconds on the Guild Way flyover for Preston-bound traffic when the slip road shuts. The improved flow is forecast to come from the elimination of merging traffic and a resultant reduction in the weaving which takes place to get in the correct lane for the city centre.
However, the “redistribution” of traffic is expected to increase delays by eight seconds northbound at the junction of Strand Road and Port Way, ten seconds northbound on Liverpool Road at the Penwortham Triangle and 13 seconds on Cop Lane southbound at the junction with the Golden Way slip road.
All junctions in the area have been found to have sufficient capacity to cope with any additional traffic created by the changes.