Motorists must face a few more weeks of misery before a long-running scheme to repair a city bridge reaches completion.
Cheshire West and Chester Council is hopeful the “intensive and specialist” work being carried out on Watergate Bridge in Chester will be completed by the end of the year.
The delayed project – part of a £500,000 improvement scheme which began last November – has meant Nuns Road has had to be closed to traffic from Grosvenor Road to Lower Watergate Street – forcing drivers on to Nicholas Street and leading to long queues at busy times.
With much of the repair work taking place under large covers, it has often looked like nothing is being done – but the council is keen to stress the bridge has been “a hive of activity” and the “bulk” of work will be done by the end of the year.
A CWaC spokesman said everything was on schedule to finish at the end of 2017, although the work could “possibly” run into early January.
Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment at CWaC, added: “These intensive and specialist works are part of a project to improve and maintain the city’s historic Walls.
“Due to its complexity, the skilled work has been so far hidden from public view, and it’s easy to see why it may look like nothing has been happening.
“But underneath the white scaffold tent, where the majority of the works are taking place, is a hive of activity.
“Work is also taking place on the approach ramps either side of the bridge, in order to make the best use of the closure that is in place for the bridge works.
“There is still a lot to do but we are striving to have the bulk of these works complete by the end of this year.”
The bridge has been propped up by scaffolding since 2012.
Repair work finally began on it last November.
It was due to be completed in May, but an unexpected discovery pushed the project back.
After dismantling the bridge parapet in the spring, the council’s bridges team and specialist stonemasons found the bridge was built on two foundation stones – with a cavity in the middle – rather than one, meaning much more work was required.
More stone than originally expected had to be replaced due to ‘delamination’, where water flakes away outer layers of stonework.
An end is now in sight but, with Christmas looming, the roads around the bridge are likely to get busier before the work is finally completed.
Cllr Shore added: “During these works, constant monitoring of the city’s traffic flow systems has been undertaken in order to lessen the impact of the works for local residents and businesses and visitors.
“As we approach Christmas, we understand that there will be higher levels of traffic and we will do the very best we can to keeping traffic flowing smoothly.”