Work on the busy western arm link road off the M6 onto the M5 has revealed the damage to the road surface is more extensive than was originally thought and will now not be completed until November.
Highways England understands this news will be disappointing for drivers, but safety is paramount and every effort will be made to minimise the impact on journeys.
Highways England has been replacing vital waterproofing at the beginning of M6 junction 9 at Walsall to the south on the M5 at West Bromwich since January.
But as with the work at Spaghetti Junction, engineers have found clusters of damage around loadbearing supports and joints – the location of which will make the necessary repairs very challenging. In some areas, water has breached the old waterproofing, damaged the concrete deck and corroded the internal steel reinforcement.
Jess Kenny, project manager, explained:
As with Spaghetti Junction, we expected to carry out concrete repairs as part of this work,
But we knew we wouldn’t know the full extent of what needed doing until we removed areas of the road surface.
Unfortunately, we’ve now discovered the location of the damage is such that the repairs will be more extensive and take longer than at first thought, so the work won’t be completed until later in the year.
Waterproofing is a vital component of any concrete infrastructure – it is needed to help protect the steel support beams which run throughout the concrete.
Engineers will have to tackle the repairs in small sections, as the integrity of the bridge structure would be compromised if large areas of concrete are removed.
Not only will engineers have to work in short phases, but the concrete itself will need time to cure once its put in place.
Jess Kenny explained:
We’d love to be able to pull up all the surfacing and complete this work in one go but that would seriously weaken the integrity of the bridge deck and cause a real threat such that the structural stability of the bridge will be compromised,
Highways England will continue to work in close contact with Sandwell Council, Walsall Council, Wolverhampton City Council and Birmingham City Council to mitigate the effects of its work on drivers.
Diversions will remain in place throughout, and Highways England has committed to managing traffic to retain as much access as possible.
During full closures of the M5 Western arm southbound traffic will be diverted along the M6 to Junction 7 to access the M5 southbound eastern arm.
Diversions for the M6 Junction 9 southbound on-slip closure will be on the local road network to M5 Junction 1 and to M6 Junction 7. Diversion routes are agreed with Walsall and Sandwell councils and will be fully signed.
More information on the scheme is available on Highways England website.
Members of the public should contact the Highways England customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.
Journalists should contact the Highways England press office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.