WORK on the long-awaited A2 upgrade is set to begin next month after the government appointed a contractor to carry out the major project.
First mooted over 60 years ago, successive governments and administrations have gone through the motions of looking to carry out the much-needed dualling of the Shore Road between Jordanstown and Carrick without a spade ever hitting the ground.
Carrying over 35,000 cars a day the route is often subject to long traffic delays during the morning and evening rush hours.
However, after funding was established in March last year the Roads Minister Danny Kennedy has this week announced that Graham Construction will carry out the upgrade works on the road.
The Minister said: “The award of the contract is a significant step forward allowing construction to begin in just a few weeks on the A2 between Carrickfergus and Whiteabbey, a strategic link in our road network.
“The improvement that a dual carriageway between Jordanstown and Seapark will bring has attracted strong support from residents and traders in both Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey, and from those who travel the route.
“I congratulate Graham Construction on their successful bid and thank all the construction companies who submitted proposal for consideration.”
Construction of the scheme is expected to begin in March and take around two years to complete.
East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party MLA Roy Beggs Jnr, who for many years had been lobbying for the upgrade, has welcomed the award of the contract for the road improvement scheme.
Mr Beggs said: “This is a red letter day for the residents, businesses and commuters who have suffered significant traffic congestion and delays for decades.
“With the appointment of a main contractor, the much needed and long awaited work to uncork the Greenisland A2 traffic bottleneck is ready to go.
“When I was first elected, some other representatives said that the A2 Greenisland road widening would never happen.
“However, I persevered by lobbying through the development of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Planning process which recognised the A2 road widening as a priority in the area plan for greater Belfast.
“I then continued to highlight the A2 at Greenisland as the most heavily congested road at the Assembly and again through the Regional Development Committee.
“I am therefore delighted that the contract to carry out the road widening scheme has now been issued.”
He added: “While, I understand that two lanes of traffic will be maintained during busy commuter periods, I suspect that there will be some degree of traffic congestion during the construction stage.
“However, the Roads Minister, Danny Kennedy MLA and Translink have shown commendable foresight by up grading trains and by expanding park and ride facilities over recent years.
“I have no doubt that when this work is completed, there will be significant benefits to the people of east Antrim and I would expect job opportunities and property prices to improve as a result.”