Monday, 14 January 2019

Northeastern Bypass

The St Albans ring road was not even complete when, in the 1950s, one or two residents – possibly living along the ring road's route – voiced the opinion that the ring road is in the wrong place; a far better location would be further out, and suggested a line crossing Hatfield Road at Smallford.  Smallford Lane (Station Road) and Sandpit Lane (Oaklands Lane) were the only two thoroughfares guardedly named as no other roads which then existed could be lined up to even vaguely connect up a circular route around St Albans.  To draw lines through the countryside and suggest roads are constructed along them would invite trouble from the Protect the Green Belt supporters.  So there the matter rested.

A major problem with ring roads of any kind is the choices we are invited to make.  Anyone driving inwards to the city centre might  have to contend with some congestion unless or until the central ring road (inner bypass), vehemently opposed by many residents, finally came about.  But if your destination is beyond the centre – in other words, you need to drive through to the other side – you would need to make a choice based on distance or time.  To travel roughly halfway around a ring road increases distance but may decrease time than crawling through the centre.  On the other hand, valuable time may be lost crossing a ring road's radial junctions, such as Hatfield/Beechwood or Marshalswick/Sandridge.

One answer would be to increase section lengths of the ring road in order to spread the traffic out and reduce congestion.  This can only be achieved by making a larger ring.  Which is what was proposed in the 1960s Transportation Study.  Quite apart from carving out a countryside route it would suffer from the ring road's biggest issue : that it is not a full circle.  Depending on the radial road a driver is approaching the city from, the choice of clockwise or anticlockwise is skewed towards the west, north and east, because the circle is incomplete.  This may force a longer journey, by time or distance, than might be desirable.

A double bend along Sandringham Crescent

One section of the proposed northeastern bypass, or half a ring, was constructed, of sorts, in the 1970s.  This became Sandringham Crescent and House Lane when Jersey Farm development was being planned, but it doesn't look very bypass-ish today as it snakes its way from Sandpit Lane to St Albans Road.  Another section would have made use of the bypass between London Colney and Colney Heath, and traffic could then also continue on the bypass between London Colney and Park Street, where it would have diverted to become absorbed into the ring road in King Harry Lane.  In other words, a ring road which is not quite a ring, in that it would fail to join up.

Whether it would have worked in terms of alleviating congestion in the city centre and/or alleviate junction capacity on the ring road is conjecture fifty years on, because we never did benefit from the northeastern bypass.  Instead we have made do, just as we have made do without the proposed central (inner bypass) changes.

Whatever we each think, there is one element of the data which is missing: the traffic stats for fifty years ago are very different from today's traffic count.  This has been just a game!

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