HOPES have been raised fresh government funding could be unlocked to help pay for £25m of urgent repairs to one of the main transport routes into the New Forest.
Redbridge causeway, which carries the A35 over the River Test between the district and Southampton, has been listed among 10 regional priorities making a bid for cash from Whitehall.
As reported in the A&T, Hampshire County Council has warned it does not have enough money to fix the crossing which is used by 60,000 vehicles a day and whose concrete is starting to crumble.
HCC has so far struggled to obtain central funding, despite public demands from New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne and former leader Cllr Roy Perry.
But now the work has been included as part of a £3.5bn, five-year investment programme submitted to the government by Transport for the South East, a new regional body representing local authorities, business groups and the transport industry.
Cllr Rob Humby, HCC’s cabinet member for economy, transport and environment, said: “Redbridge causeway is a key link between the port of Southampton and the western side of Southampton Water.
“It is an essential route not only for the local economy but also for import and export business affecting the whole of the country.
“It is time this importance to the UK economy is recognised and national funding made available for the repairs it urgently needs.”
HCC pointed out the submission follows a request by government for regions to agree their priorities for improving the major road network of important routes.
Redbridge causeway also carries the train line from Southampton to Totton, as well as proving the only pedestrian route over the River Test.
Cllr Humby added: “We have already used £8.4m from our local roads budget to underwrite the first part of the repair bill for work to keep the busy A35 route into Southampton open without the need for weight restrictions – a significant part of our total budget available for the maintenance of all of Hampshire’s 5,500 miles of roads.
“With the government spending 43 times more per mile on motorways which make up just 3% of the country’s roads than they make available for councils to improve local roads, this is an opportunity for this funding disparity to be addressed.”
The Redbridge causeway was selected by Transport for the South East after an assessment against national criteria, as well as sustainable economic growth, quality of life and the environment.
Cllr Keith Glazier, chair of Transport for the South East, said: “A high-quality, reliable transport network is absolutely critical to our region’s continued success, so it’s vital we make a strong case for ongoing investment on behalf of people and businesses in the south-east.”