Plans to build a congestion-busting flyover at one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the north have taken a “major step forward”.
The Press and Journal can today reveal that the multimillion pound development at the Longman Roundabout in Inverness is close to becoming a reality.
Holyrood ministers described the scheme as a “key priority” for the Scottish Government last night as they confirmed that consultants will be appointed today to draw up detailed designs.
Engineering firm Jacobs UK is expected to be awarded the contract and will now start work on the flyover.
Known as a grade separated junction, the development aims to finally end traffic misery for thousands of motorists at the notorious pinch-point.
The flyover is proposed for the roundabout at the southern end of the Kessock Bridge, where the A82 Fort William road meets the A9 Perth route, and is expected to be similar in design to the Raigmore Interchange.
Options will be drawn up over the next 15-18 months, after which a preferred design will be progressed by transport chiefs.
The Scottish Government has set aside £107million to progress the Longman Roundabout flyover and the city’s new “East Link”, which will connect the A9 and the A96 Aberdeen road between Inshes and Smithton.
Both projects were included in the £315million Inverness City Region Deal, which was signed off in January by representatives of Highland Council, and the UK and Scottish governments.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “The Scottish Government recognises the need to provide high quality road infrastructure to support economic growth and improve journey times for road users in and around Inverness.
“As part of the Inverness and Highlands City-Region Deal significant investment will be made in the trunk road network to deliver the grade separation of the A9/A82 Longman junction and the A9/A96 Inshes to Smithton Link Road to improve congestion and accessibility to Inverness.
“Improving the traffic bottleneck at Longman is a key priority of the Scottish Government and the appointment today of a design consultant to look at options for improving this well-known junction in Inverness is a major step forward in delivering this improvement.
“We will continue to work in collaboration with The Highland Council whilst taking this scheme forward.”
The flyover would take vehicles crossing the Kessock Bridge up and over a roundabout that has become a notorious pinch-point, with official data showing traffic on the bridge has increased by as much as two-thirds in the past 20 years.
Traffic lights were installed at the roundabout but have proved controversial, with many motorists claiming they have exacerbated the problems.
It is understood that officials from Highland Council have already held talks with Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC about how the project will affect their stadium, which is next to the roundabout.
Transport Scotland is also currently consulting on three options for the new East Link, which aims to cut congestion in the city by joining up with the West Link to enable drivers to bypass the city centre if they want to travel from the A82 Fort William road to the A96 Aberdeen road.
The agency is expected to make a final decision on its preferred route later this year.
Opposition MSPs have previously welcomed the plans for the Longman Roundabout, but called for the timetable to be accelerated, warning that “any motorist looking for relief much before 2020 will be disappointed”.