Belfast Telegraph

New flyovers will carve up Belfast, experts claim

By Victoria O'Hara

Fears are mounting that an 18-metre flyover — as tall as a six-storey building — could cut north Belfast off from the rest of the city.

It is understood an announcement on the £100m York Street Interchange Project is expected within days.

Four options to solve the traffic bottleneck at the junction used by 100,000 drivers daily are being considered by the Roads Service.

The huge project would replace existing traffic lights at York Street with new flyovers or underpasses providing direct links between the Westlink and M2, and the Westlink and M3 motorways.

Two options involve sinking the motorway mostly below ground.

The two other propose 18m high motorways over the existing elevated rail and road bridges.

It is understood the decision will be announced on Thursday.

Speculation has grown that the costlier Option B is being favoured. This involves two flyovers crossing over York Street, near houses and the Cityside shopping centre, formerly Yorkgate.

If Roads Minister Danny Kennedy backs this option it will see a massive flyover built just 480 yards from St Anne’s Cathedral, the Cathedral Quarter cultural area and close to the new University of Ulster campus proposed for the city.

Two architects have warned it could be disastrous, creating a new barrier separating north Belfast from the rest of the city.

Mark Hackett and Declan Hill, directors of the Forum for Alternative Belfast (FAB) believe it could “permanently sever north Belfast’s communities from the emerging education and employment opportunities in the city centre and the Titanic Quarter”.

Mr Hackett said: “Belfast runs the risk of isolating the communities around it.”

The organisation said the project should be looked at as part of an “urban design opportunity” for north Belfast and not a “roads only” project.

Mr Hackett added: “Don’t get us wrong, we are not against the road, we put forward a detailed urban design for the sunken option which allows for the re-stitching of north Belfast to the city centre, walkable, cycleable, and safe city streets.”

Factfile

The Belfast Telegraph asked the DRD these questions:

  • Has the minister decided on a preferred option?
  • When will it be revealed?
  • Does it involve an 18m-high flyover?
  • How many responses did the department receive to the public consultation?
  • Is the minister concerned this project will impact on regeneration projects?

A spokeswoman for the DRD replied: “Full details of the preferred option will be revealed next week when we make the announcement.”

At the crossroads: the four options

Option A

  • Movements between M2 and Westlink via underpasses at new York St bridge and existing Lagan Road and Dargan Rail bridges.
  • Westlink to M3 movement via underpass below existing ground level and new York Street bridge.

Cost approximately £72m.

Option B

  • Movement between M2 and Westlink via new bridge over existing Lagan Road and Dargan Rail bridges, approximately 18m above existing ground level.
  • Movement between Westlink and M2 via underpass at new York Street bridge and existing Dargan Rail bridge. M3 to Westlink via new bridge over York Street.

Cost approximately £100m.

Option C

  • Movements between M2 and Westlink via underpasses under new York St bridge and existing Lagan Rd/Dargan Rail bridges.
  • Westlink to M3 movement via underpass below existing ground level and new York Street bridge.
  • M3 to Westlink movement via underpass below existing ground level under new York St bridge.

Cost approximately £98m.

Option D

  • Movements between M2 and Westlink via new bridges over existing Lagan Road and Dargan Rail bridges, approximately 18m above existing ground level.
  • Westlink to M3 movement via traffic signal-controlled junctions.

Cost approximately £95m.

Information sourced from DRD Roads Service website

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