The first of eight ‘superspan’ gantries crossing whole sections of the M60 and M62 motorway project will be installed later this week.
And it means the shutdown of the busy motorway to allow huge cranes to carry out the work.
The overhead gantries, which will carry message and variable speed limit signs, are being installed over the next six weeks with the first being erected across the M62, between junction 19 at Heywood and junction 20 at Oldham, on Thursday night (5 May).
The gantries – which will span both the eastbound and westbound carriageways of the motorway – are up to 59 metres wide, weigh up to 78 tonnes and will require a special 500-tonne crane to help instal them as well as full overnight motorway closures.
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The first closure will take place along the M62 in both directions between junction 19 and junction 20 from 10pm on Thursday night until 6am on Friday morning. The closure could be postponed if strong winds are forecast.
The smart motorway scheme, between junction 8 of the M60 near Sale and junction 20 of the M62, will see the latest technology being used to monitor traffic levels and keep vehicles moving by using variable speed limits. The hard shoulder will also be permanently converted into an extra lane to increase capacity between junctions 18 and 20 on the M62.
The eventual aim is to make the whole length of the M62 between Manchester and leeds, passing Huddersfield, into a smart motorway.
Highways England project manager Stephen Hill said: “These new gantries are quite a bit lighter than the old gantries we removed earlier in the project.
“But they are still very large structures and are actually arriving on site in two parts. A 150 tonne mobile crane will then be used to join the two sections together before the larger crane lifts the whole structure in place across the motorway.
“We’re advising people to allow extra time for their journeys if they’re planning to travel when the closures are taking place, although we’ve deliberately timed the lifting work to be carried out when traffic levels are at their lowest.”
Further overnight closures between junctions 19 and 20 are scheduled to take place next week – on Tuesday (10 May) and Thursday (12 May). The eastbound diversion route for the closures from junction 19 will operate north of the motorway – from junction 19 using the northbound A6046, eastbound A458 and southbound A627(M) down to junction 20.
The westbound diversion will run south of the motorway – with drivers sent onto the southbound A627(M) from junction 20, westbound A664 and northbound A6046 up to junction 19.
When the smart motorway scheme is completed in autumn 2017, around 200 new electronic message signs on overhead gantries will warn drivers of changes in the mandatory speed limit, lane closures and incidents ahead.