Dear Mr Macleod,
Junction Arrangements for the New Walton Bridge
I write in response to your web site article with the title Walton Bridge Junction 'Madness'.
It is stated towards the end of the article that:
"This web page shares some strongly held concerns. There are of course diverse viewpoints, and a goal of our association is to reflect a fair balance of local residents' concerns - so whatever your opinions may be, please feel free to contact us."
However, the comments in the article only appear to represent one point of view.
I therefore hope you will accept the comments in this letter, in the spirit they are given, as a way of helping to inform local debate.
The new form of the Cowey Sale junction has been chosen to address the current problems of traffic congestion and
right turn accidents at the present junction. It has never been suggested that changes to this junction will have an impact on road safety in Thames Street or
Portmore Park Road, but rather that it would be neutral. The new junction will eliminate the right turn accident problem by simply removing the right turns. This is achievable, as all movements can be made by turning left. The congestion caused by people waiting to turn right from the bridge into Walton Lane will also be eliminated, as they will be able to make an unobstructed left turn down and under the bridge.
The new junction is seen as a development of the existing junction, rather than a wholly new junction. The proposals are to rebuild the existing link road embankment on the upstream side of the bridge, provide a new link road embankment on the downstream side of the bridge, and to upgrade the current access road under the bridge to highway standards. This does involve raising the bridge to give highway standard headroom for the link road as it passes under the bridge. In turn, this means that the new link road embankments will be around 2.4 metres (7' 11") higher than the existing link road embankment. (The existing link road embankment is around 3.8 metres (12'6") high.)
However, this has to be seen in context, as the Environment Agency require the County to raise the bridge by around 0.4 metres (1' 4") to increase the navigation clearance over the river, irrespective of the junction design. Alongside this the current vertical alignment of the road is sub-standard and dips at the Walton Lane junction, resulting in the junction needing to be raised by around another 1.0 metre (3' 4") to eliminate the dip. So even if a single link road design had been chosen we would have had to completely rebuild and raise the existing link road. Nonetheless, it has to be acknowledged that the twin link road option does lead to the link road embankment being about 1.0 metre (3' 4") higher than with a single upstream link road.
The design team has given careful consideration to the environmental impact of the link road embankments on Cowey Sale, and has been working on plans with our consultant landscape architects to mitigate these impacts. Considerable effort has gone into 'softening' the areas
around the embankments through sensitive landscaping and planting, and to introduce activity within the area enclosed by the link roads. The County is working in partnership with the Environment Agency, Elmbridge Borough Council and Spelthorne Borough Council to draw up a landscape master plan for the open spaces adjoining the bridge. Whilst the amount of land that will be taken up by the new link roads will be relatively small, replacement open space of equal amenity value will be added to Cowey Sale in compensation, and there will be enhancements to the existing planting and habitat.
I share your concern that traffic flows on the A244 (Walton Bridge Road/New Zealand Avenue) and along Walton Lane should not increase as a consequence of this scheme, and it has therefore been designed with this objective in mind. Traffic flows along these roads are already constrained by Marshall's Roundabout to the north, the Oatlands Drive
traffic signals to the south, and the Portmore Park Road and Thames Street junctions to the west. The queues that build up at these junctions at the busiest times is evidence that the junctions are operating at their maximum capacity, and cannot feed any more traffic through. This empirical evidence is supported by the County's computer model of traffic flows in the area. A traffic model of this type is built around the existing highway layout and traffic flows, and is then calibrated and validated to ensure that it accurately reflects what is happening on the ground. The proposed new junction was then added into the model to see what affect it had on traffic flows. I am pleased to say that it confirmed the view that the new junction arrangements would not change traffic flows along Walton Lane, with the distribution of traffic flows along Oatlands Drive and Walton Lane not changing in any significant way.
It is fully recognised that the A244 and Walton Lane play totally different roles in the highway network. The A244 is classed a County Distributor Road, which is defined as a road that caters for long and medium distance traffic with an origin and/or destination in Surrey. The County thus expects the A244 to continue to carry all classes of vehicles, including HGVs, on longer journeys to and from local destinations. On the other hand Walton Lane is a local road, principally providing access to Cowey Sale and the local community, (although where a through route exists there will always be an element of through traffic), and it is protected by a 7.5 tonne weight limit. There are no plans to change the traffic calming measures at the Weybridge end of Walton Lane, and the design team is turning its thoughts to traffic calming measures at the Cowey Sale end.
The bends in the proposed link roads will in themselves introduce an element of traffic calming, and will reduce traffic speeds. Further measures on Walton Lane as it passes Cowey Sale are being planned to keep speeds low, but this will have to done in a sympathetic manner that does not urbanise or detract from the essential atmosphere of the area.
I hope that you will see from this that the your viewpoint on the future of Walton Lane has a great deal in common with that of the County, and I hope that through a shared approach we can truly provide a new bridge that the community can be proud of. With a scheme of this size there will always be some negative impacts, just as there are some negative aspects of the current bridge. Our job is to minimise these negative aspects, to provide mitigation, and to build on the positive aspects. It is within our grasp to greatly enhance both the crossing and the surrounding open space.
County Councillor - Weybridge Division