Work begins this week on repairing a badly-damaged concrete bridge in Gateshead after a suspected arson attack.
The road bridge, over the River Team in Dunston, was left with serious structural damage last July after an arson attack in the yard under the bridge.
A substantial fire developed which caused large portions of the load-bearing concrete beams to crack.
After a detailed examination by structural engineers, the bridge was reduced to a single lane for public safety, the emergency services said.
Further investigations confirmed that the bridge was reparable but would require major and complicated repairs by a specialist contractor. That contractor has now been appointed and the long and careful task of removing the badly-damaged concrete and re-casting the structural beams in situ is expected to begin this week.
Councillor John McElroy, Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, says: “Although you can’t see it from the road above, the damage caused by the fire is considerable.
Unfortunately, repairs of this nature are difficult and it’s a highly specialist job. There aren’t many companies who have the necessary skills to take on a job like this and it’s taken a while to get everything in place.
“We know these temporary traffic lights have caused a lot of frustration locally but I’m sure people will agree that closing the bridge completely would have been even more disruptive.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their patience and I’m sure they‘ll be happy that finally the end is now in sight.”
The work is likely to take several months to complete as only small areas of the damaged structure can be worked on at any one time. This is to ensure the viaduct will be able to support traffic loads during the concrete removal process.
It is hoped that the repair work on the bridge can be completed by the end of April. Once it is finished, the temporary four-way traffic lights will be removed and the previous lights at the junction of Clockmill Road will be back in use.
Motorists are advised to continue avoiding the area where possible.