Warnings have been made that Moray’s biggest town could grind to a halt without a new £10 million bridge to cope with a population boom.
More than 4,000 homes are expected to be built in Elgin over the next 20 years as its boundaries continue to swell to the north and south.
A roads blueprint prepared to help the town cope with the influx had earmarked building a new bridge over the railway between Ashgrove Road and Maisondieu Road.
Transport officials at Moray Council believe that the expected opening of the upgraded A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road, which will include an Elgin bypass, will delay the need for the crossing until 2035 by diverting traffic away from the town.
However, yesterday the authority was urged to press ahead without pinning its hopes on the route opening in time for its 2030 target.
Elgin City South councillor John Divers said: “We can’t afford to count on the road being ready in time, I would have huge reservations with that kind of approach.
“There is already a build-up of traffic in the area around the existing bridge on New Elgin Road. We saw a couple of weeks ago how busy it is when there were issues on Edgar Road – it sent huge tailbacks in every direction.
“At the moment we are 10 years away so we can react to things. If the A96 is delayed further down the line then we might not be able to react in time.”
Councillors will be presented with three options today about the potential Ashgrove Road bridge – including maintaining the due date at 2030, pushing it back five years or scrapping it entirely.
Elgin’s continued growth is projected to lead to even longer queues than the current delays at both the Pansport and Edgar Round roundabouts in the town.
The cost of the new crossing has been estimated at about £10million by transport officials with cash expected to be secured from developers building property in the area.
No money has been put to the project at the moment but staff have forecasted future projects will be eligible contribute.
In a report, transportation manager Nicola Moss explained the 2030 target opening for the upgraded A96 pushes the need for the bridge back to 2035 – but warned doing nothing could have significant consequences for residents.
She said: “While the immediate need for the crossing has eased, the modelling still indicates network constraints.
“Without a long-term solution this would require an acceptance of the increased congestion and network constraints that would be created south of Elgin town centre, with the consequent impacts on journey time and reliability.”