Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Multi-million pound plans to completely revamp Armley Gyratory could soon be one step closer after going before regional decision-makers later this week.
Plans were released earlier this year, which would involve widening the roads and improving pedestrian facilities in and around the often-congested road.
According to a West Yorkshire Combined Authority report, the changes are expected to cause an increase of more than 100,000 tonnes in carbon emissions over the next 60 years.
But it is also hoped the changes will help keep traffic out of the city centre, which currently suffers some of the worst air pollution in the district.
A report, set to go before a full WYCA meeting later this week stated:
“Enhancement to the highway capacity is considered necessary to accommodate the additional traffic following the planned closure to City Square.
“This is forecast to increase carbon emissions by 184,038 tonnes over a 60-year appraisal period. However, early indications suggest that as we expect to see an increasing number of electric vehicles on the road in future years, this should reduce to approximately 111,000 tonnes.
“Furthermore, it is anticipated that following the implementation of
all planned activities within Leeds city centre funding programmes, that overall local air quality benefits will be realised.
“The scheme will reduce congestion levels and reduce journey times for motorists, including bus services. Buses, especially core city services will further benefit from the implementation of MOVA adaptive signal control which features virtual bus priority measures.
“The scheme will also improve walking and cycling connectivity and safety, by replacing the existing footbridges, making users more visible to motorists.”
The plans involve increasing capacity on A643 between the railway bridge and the gyratory, increasing from three lanes to five.
The new Canal Street stop line will increase from two to five lanes, while the A647 approach will be widened, removing the left free flow turn and providing five signal-controlled lanes.
Technology will also be used to help signals be more adaptive to traffic, and to create “virtual bus priority measures.”
This is all expected to take place by late 2022.
A total of £27.9m is expected to be approved by WYCA, with the total value of the expected to cost around £41.9m. It will be discussed at a WYCA meeting on Thursday, February 3.
City Square traffic closure – ‘work could finish by December’
Multi-million pound works to double the size of Leeds City Square and close the area to traffic could be finished as early as December, a report by civil servants has stated.
A report into work on the Leeds City Centre Package, which involves roads around the city square being open only to buses, taxis and bicycles, is set to go before a meeting of regional decision-makers next week.
It added that, while the economic case for the work was “very poor”, it would ensure buses would “no longer have to compete” with cars for space on the city centre’s roads.
According to the document, the work will also involve converting East Parade and King Street into a two-way street with bus stops, as well as introducing signals at Globe Road and Westgate.
The works are set to cost around £15.3m in total, and work is expected to start this April.
The document stated: “Delivery of the City Square Plus package will allow City Square to be pedestrianised, improving connectivity and safety for people travelling by bike or on foot within the city centre, and making it more attractive to walk or cycle to employment, housing, retail, education, and public transport (bus and rail).
“The scheme will also improve bus journey reliability with new bus gates, new stops, and changes to routes to complement the wider network.
“Buses will also no longer have to compete for road space with motorists. ANPR (number plate recognition) survey of 2013 revealed that around 30 per cent of traffic that uses City Square does not originate in or is destined for the city centre. So, a notable proportion of traffic simply use this route as an alternative to the Inner Ring Road for northbound journeys across the city.”
It said that the scheme presented “very poor value for money” when assessed using criteria set by the Department for Transport criteria, but added: “The scheme demonstrates good benefits in terms of accident, cycling and walking, pedestrian journey time, and public space quality, they are outweighed by the significant disbenefits to motorists.
“The principle aim of the scheme is to re-prioritise road space in Leeds City Centre to sustainable travel (cycling, walking and buses) and local impacts.”
According to plans released last year, early blueprints for a newly-designed City Square included woodland and water features, with the entire area between the Queens Hotel and Mill Hill Chapel closed to general traffic.
A council report said the site would feature a “conceptual reincarnation” of the ancient Forest of Leodis on which the city is built, as well as “informal play” for children, with platforms and rock steps to climb and jump off, as well as a water feature.
City Square was first built in 1897, alongside the old Post Office building.