The UK government has published plans for an overhaul of the A303 in the south-west of the country, which will include a 1.8 mile tunnel taking traffic underneath Stonehenge.
The upgrades are part of a wider £2 billion investment in transport links in the region and aim to increase road capacity, reduce congestion and provide a boost to the south-west’s economy.
It will also provide a better experience for visitors to the World Heritage Site at Stonehenge by removing the sight and sound of traffic from the immediate area, as the current route passes within a few hundred metres of the site.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “This major investment in the south-west will transform the A303 and benefit those locally by cutting congestion and improving journey times.”
The BBC notes that the A303 is a frequent source of congestion as, despite being a major artery for traffic heading into and out of the south-west, one-third of the route is still single carriageway, including the section that passes close to Stonehenge. Overall, seven miles of upgraded road, including the proposed tunnel, will be dual-carriageway, therefore alleviating this issue.
A public consultation on the scheme opened on January 12th and will run until March 5th, during which there will be a series of public exhibitions on the plans. Drivers, hauliers, residents and other road users will be able to have their say on the project.
A previous report by Unesco and International Council on Monuments and Sites has recognised the benefits of the tunnel in preserving Stonehenge, although campaign group Stonehenge Alliance has called for any such solution to be much longer than the proposed 1.8 miles.
It claims that any tunnel less than 2.7 miles in length would do “irreparable damage” to the landscape. A 2015 petition started by the group calling for a longer tunnel gathered 17,500 signatures.
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan stated the scheme is part of the biggest road investment programme in a generation. He added: “The public exhibitions will provide an excellent opportunity to explain further our plans and to hear feedback from stakeholders on our proposals to deliver the scheme.”