The Churchill Way flyovers in Liverpool city centre are to close after a routine inspection concluded that further investigation works are required.
The two-lane, concrete fly-overs, which were opened in 1970 as part of a £2.4m Mersey Tunnel relief scheme, will close in both directions at 8pm tonight (Friday, 28 September) to allow more intrusive inspections to take place.
The flyovers, consisting of two separate roads linking Lime Street to Dale Street (south flyover) and Tithebarn Street (north flyover), run directly behind the city’s museums and galleries in William Brown Street and has been under constant assessment since the 1980s when it was closed for repairs. There were further remedial works in 2005 and 2013 as part on an ongoing maintenance regime.
Following new legislation on major highways structures a Post Tension Site Investigation (PTSI) began in 2016 to assess the northern and southern sections, both of which are more than 240 metres in length.
This has found several design and construction flaws, including drainage, internal support, barriers and bearings and has recommended further intrusive investigations be carried out which requires a full closure.
It is anticipated this new survey, which will be undertaken by specialist engineers and will involve structural testing, removal of the road surface and drilling into the decks as well as underground assessments of every supporting column, is expected to take at least six months to complete. This estimated time period will be affected by the unusual fact that the fly-overs have no access chambers to allow such inspections.
The diversion routes will be as follows:
North Flyover – Traffic on Tithebarn Street will be directed to take a left on Vauxhall Road then right on to Leeds Street, then right on to Byrom Street and up Hunter Street to the junction with St Anne Street and into the city centre.
South Flyover – Traffic on Lime Street will be directed to continue onto Commutation Row then left onto Islington, down on to Hunter Street then left onto Byrom Street into the city centre – where they can access lower Dale Street from the tunnel roundabout. Equally traffic on Hunter Street can continue north on the A59 and then take a left at Leeds Street to access the waterfront.
Councillor James Noakes, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “The Churchill Way fly-over is a unique design and over time that has led to some unique challenges which the council has been monitoring for the past few decades.
“This most recent survey we commissioned has now revealed certain elements of the structure cannot be guaranteed as safe – which given its age and past history is not surprising – and with any risk we cannot take any chances.
“Now we need to establish the severity of that risk and the only right and proper thing to do is to close the structure to allow engineers to carry out more detailed inspections. This is a complex process requiring numerous tests along the entire span and added to the fact there are no access chambers to assist the engineers it will take at least six months to do.
“Public safety is paramount and despite the obvious inconvenience this closure will cause to city centre commuters we cannot compromise on safety.
“Our highways team are working round the clock to ensure new diversions and signage are in place to ensure traffic continues to flow and fortunately the city centre has enough alternative routes to accommodate the redirected traffic.
“As soon as this new survey is completed we will determine a plan of action and we will aim to keep all our city centre stakeholders and the public informed at every step.”