NEARLY 11 months of chaos for drivers comes to an end today as a major gateway to the east of the Capital reopens to traffic.
Leith Street was closed off to vehicles on September 4 last year to allow major works for the £1 billion new St James development.
New sewers as well as gas and water pipes have been installed with business representatives welcoming the expected reopening by 6am this morning.
“Businesses there have had a lot to contend with over a number of years particularly the last year with all this big retail construction going on and the closure of Leith Street,” said Garry Clark of the Federation of Small Businesses.
“Their priority was for Leith Street to be open again on time - thankfully the council and contractors have managed to secure that which is definitely good news in time for the festival, which is what we always wanted.”
The reopening coincides with the start of Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe
Work is still continuing on reconfiguring the Picardy Place roundabout despite hopes it could be ready in time for the return of traffic to Leith Street.
And one lane northbound will remain closed for safety reasons until the development is completed in 2020.
The reopened street features reconstructed, widened pavements, four primary crossing points and traffic signals at the junction with Calton Road.
There will be a dedicated two-way cycle lane between Calton Road and Picardy Place.
Buses will start using Leith Street again from July 28 at 5am. Services returning to Leith Street are 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 14, 19, 22, 25, 34, 45, 49, N7, N11, N16, N22, N25, N26, N34 and N44.
A new service 35 between Ocean Terminal and Riccarton Campus will also use the route.
The developers said the work on Leith Street had been completed on schedule and there would be no need to close the road again after the festival.
Martin Perry, director of development for Edinburgh St James, said: “We would like to thank the public for their patience during the main phase of construction work along Leith Street and we are delighted to now be re-opening the street to traffic as planned.”
Transport and environment convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes also hailed the return of traffic to the street.
She said: “The re-opening of Leith Street marks the culmination of the first phase of public realm improvements being delivered in conjunction with the Edinburgh St James project.
“With wider pavements and better cycling provision, the works have created a much more accessible and people-friendly thoroughfare.
“Temporary traffic management will remain in place to allow construction of the new Picardy Place road layout to continue,” added Cllr Macinnes, thanking teh public for their patience.