Attempts to end the gridlock for frazzled drivers on the City Bypass have taken a huge step forward with the award of a contract for the first step in building a flyover at the Sheriffhall roundabout.
The £1.2 million contract for vital ground investigations to prepare the way for the new flyover will see work start in January and last for an estimated three months.
The Scottish Government announced the flyover plans in April and funding for the revamp of what has been dubbed “Edinburgh’s worst roundabout” was included in the £1 billion City Deal signed by the Scottish and UK governments and the city council in July.
Motorists frequently face congestion and long delays at the existing roundabout and an upgrade has been talked about for years. An extra 10,000 vehicles per day are forecast to be using the City Bypass by 2022.
Under the plan, local traffic heading between Edinburgh and Midlothian will be siphoned off by creating a new roundabout underneath a revamped A720.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf announced the ground investigation contract had been awarded to Soil Engineering GeoServices Ltd.
The site is known to have complex ground conditions - it sits on top of historical mine workings and a geological fault with possible mineral seams, fault zones and mine shafts.
Some of the investigation work will take place on or near the live carriageway and traffic management arrangements will be needed for safety reasons.
Transport Scotland said road users and local communities would be kept informed of plans and every effort would be made to keep disruption to a minimum.
Work on the main construction project is not expected to start until after draft orders are published in 2019.
Mr Yousaf said: “Motorists using the Edinburgh City Bypass are well aware of the traffic bottleneck at the Sheriffhall roundabout.
“As the only junction on the A720 trunk road which is not grade-separated, it is often the scene of congestion and significant queuing, particularly at morning and evening peak times.”
He said the Scottish Government was committed to delivering improvements at the busy junction.
“Having let the public see and comment on the preferred option earlier this year, we have stepped up the design work with vital ground investigations to get underway early next year.
“The preferred option will grade separate the junction, separating local traffic from the strategic traffic on the bypass and will allow the traffic on the bypass to flow freely, improving road safety and journey times for all road users.
“The completed scheme will also include provision for non-motorised users, including cyclists.
“We are taking forward the detailed development and assessment of the preferred option, with a view to publishing draft orders for the scheme in 2019 for formal comment.”