Delays to a £3million major Sunderland road improvement project could cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds, SR News and the Echo can today reveal.
Extensive work on the A19/A1231 junction at Hylton Grange Interchange began last May and was due to end in November.
The scheme, which will now hopefully be completed this month, aims to widen the A1231 eastbound carriageway on the western approach to the junction with the A19, from two lanes to three, and also provide new traffic signal equipment on the A19/A1231 roundabout.
The Highways Agency said today that the issue was down to “unforseen circumstances” and confirmed that the delays will have associated costs, which SR News and the Echo understands will cost tens of thousands of pounds.
Contractor URS has been undertaking the work on site.
One councillor has said he is concerned about the effect the delays could have on the wider Wearside economy.
Virgin Media are one of the firms due to go on site and carry out work, because the company has cables running under the road which need to be moved.
A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said: “Delays to completion of the A19/A1231 interchange improvement scheme have been experienced due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, and these delays do have costs associated with them.
“The Highways Agency continues to work with our delivery partners and stakeholders to complete these works as quickly as possible, and in doing so we seek to minimise both disruption to drivers and costs to the public purse.”
Independent councillor Colin Wakefield says he is worried that the delays could be harming the city’s economy as well as hitting the taxpayer.
“It’s part and parcel of this problem that delays cost money,” said Coun Wakefield, who serves Copt Hill ward, in Houghton.
“But delays cost everybody because it has a knock-on effect, including the travelling public and businesses whose vehicles are having to wait in the traffic.”
Joe Thomas, spokesman for Virgin Media, said: “We made our requirements clear before construction started and have been ready to start our side of the work since August last year.
“Other aspects of the build need to be finished before we can go on site and we will begin our work as soon as these are complete.”
Since the work began, a 30mph temporary speed limit has been in place on the A1231 either side of the A19 junction and also on the roundabout.
Narrow lanes and lane closures have also been implemented on the A1231 eastbound approach to the A19 junction.
Work has mainly take place between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, although work on the carriageway has been limited to off-peak periods.