North Yorkshire County Council plans to re-open the A59 at Kex Gill on Saturday afternoon, 27 February, after making good progress with extensive drainage and stabilisation works.
The County Council acted swiftly to find solutions to stabilise the slope above the A59, after the road was closed for safety reasons on 5 January when cracks appeared on the hillside following heavy rains over the Christmas period.
The Council employed geotechnical engineers to establish the extent of the problem and propose solutions after the slope began to shift and has worked hard with its contractors to push ahead with the complex and extensive remedial works.
Contractors have worked seven days a week to finish the work as the County Council has been only too aware of the widespread disruption that closure of a such a major road causes to residents, businesses and the travelling public.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Highways said:
We are delighted to be able to open the road this weekend.
Stabilising these steep slopes above the A59 has been a difficult and complex operation and we have been working seven days a week to try to complete the work in as short a time as we are able safely to do so.
The slopes are steep and this high ground is subject to harsh weather conditions, but we have been able to push on with the work more recently.
We know how difficult the closure of this busy road has been for everybody concerned and we have made every effort with our contractors to get the work completed as efficiently and speedily as possible.
The extensive nature of the work became apparent once we started the job and we have had to cope with further stormy weather over the period which threatened the stability of other areas of the slope.
But all our officers and contractors have pulled together to come up with solutions to ensure the safety of the hillside above the road and push on with the work.
It is very good news for everybody that we plan to open the road this weekend.
County Councillor John Fort, local member, thanked local residents and businesses for their patience during the A59 closure. He said:
We know how difficult and disruptive the closure and the long diversions have been and we want to thank everybody for their patience.
Safety has to come first, but we also know that we have to keep North Yorkshire on the move in order to sustain the economy and people’s livelihoods and so we have made every effort with our contractors to get this job finished as quickly as possible.
However, Cllr Mackenzie cautioned that safety of the A59 at Kex Gill remains an overriding concern and that the slope will continue to be monitored through enhanced monitoring arrangements that have now been put in place.
Cllr Mackenzie said:
The safety of the A59 along this stretch remains a primary concern. Although the stabilisation works we have undertaken over past weeks mean we can open the road safely at this point, the stability of the hillside long term remains a major issue.
The County Council’s long-term aim is to deliver a major re‐alignment of the A59 at Kex Gill which is now a priority in the Council’s Strategic Transport Prospectus for improving east‐west connectivity.
The cost of such a scheme is currently estimated at approximately £33m.
This stretch of the A59 at Kex Gill between Skipton and Harrogate runs across very high ground between even higher moorland and has in the past been affected by landslips in bad weather. In 2011, the county council undertook to strengthen the banks and resurface part of the road during a five-week road closure.
Two years ago the council undertook some additional drainage measures on the slope in a bid to improve stability and has continued to keep a close watch of the area.
Close monitoring after the Christmas rains revealed that parts of the slope had shifted by up to 800mm and there was concern about the amount of water that had become trapped and had pooled at the top of the area of instability.
The County Council’s contractors began work on Monday 18 January to install a solution designed by geotechnical engineers to drain the water from this area using a drainage channel. In addition, work commenced to strengthen further the drainage work at the bottom of the slope near the A59. In order to gain access to the area, a temporary ramp and retaining wall on part of the A59 was completed Large rocks and stone infill were laid on and behind the existing wall in order to strengthen it.
This work has all been completed this week and the County Council has also taken the opportunity to carry out other maintenance work on the A59 within the length of the road closure, including patch repairs, road markings, safety fence repairs, drainage works and wall reconstructions.
On Saturday morning it is expected that the site will be given a final sweep and inspection and road closure barriers and diversion signs will be dismantled.
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