When the New Bridge was officially opened on 15th April 1970 – by Princess Margaret – it was built to have three lanes, the roadway we use today has two and a bit.
This is because of the results of a 1990s assessment by the then Bridge Engineer, which used the safety standards of the time to review the crossing’s ability to function as a structure. In simple terms it considered the weight of modern day vehicles in relation to the strength of the bridge.
The outcome was a decision to reduce the weight carried by the New Bridge, which was done by reducing the road capacity to two lanes and a short right turn lane for traffic heading to Rochester Esplanade. The alignment will sound familiar because it’s the current road layout.
However, in 2000 work was undertaken to strengthen the New Bridge – to increase the weight of traffic it can safely carry. Bridge Engineer Arcadis has since undertaken further assessments using today’s safety standards and tools which confirm the structure is able to support three lanes of modern day traffic. Increasing traffic volumes mean now is the time to make use of that extra capacity.
This is a sensible decision both for keeping traffic moving and for the safety of vehicles turning onto the Esplanade: at present the right turn lane can only hold a limited number of vehicles, which at busy times can lead to the queue stretching back into the second lane of traffic.
So why are we telling you all of this? Because reinstating the third lane is another of the tasks to be carried out during the refurbishment of the New Bridge. This lane will run the length of the crossing owned by the Rochester Bridge Trust, opening up more capacity and reducing the likelihood of queuing traffic intruding on the second lane.