Motorists travelling into Belfast could soon benefit from new flyover bridges and underpasses designed to bring about the end of tailbacks and bottlenecks.
A series of new proposals have been outlined to help alleviate traffic problems in the York Street interchange at a cost of between £72m and £100m.
The interchange — a key arterial route into the city centre and the main gateway for traffic from the north — links three of Northern Ireland's busiest roads.
The plans are intended to ease congestion and give motorists a more direct link between the Westlink and M2 and M3 motorways.
Four preliminary options drawn up by the Roads Service have been thrown out for discussion at a public consultation in Belfast city centre today following an initial report outlining the options which was completed in March 2009.
Currently, traffic between the Westlink and motorways passes through a series of traffic lights at junctions connecting with smaller roads, resulting in significant congestion at peak times, with 100,000 drivers using the route each day.
Included in each of the four proposals is the creation of a new bridge at York Street with the possibility of several underpasses connecting the Westlink to both the M2 and M3 motorways.
Two of the options also include building large flyovers above the existing Lagan Road and Dargan Rail bridges.
Transport minister Danny Kennedy said the new proposals were “an important milestone”.
“York Street interchange is one of the main gateways to Belfast, with over 100,000 vehicles passing through it on a daily basis.” he said. “It also provides access to the port of Belfast as well as serving strategic traffic movements around Belfast.
“This is another step in the process of developing a major road improvement scheme. The proposed improvements to this key junction will provide continuous links between three of the busiest roads in Northern Ireland. This is a high priority within the Roads Service programme”.
According to the Roads Service, a final selection of the preferrred option is unlikely to be completed until summer 2012. This will be followed by further development and reports on the environmental impact, safety, financial implications and public opinion.
The entire project is expected to take between six and eight years to complete.
Public consultation will continue tomorrow at the Ramada Encore hotel in Belfast city centre.
At a crossroads... the four options