British Beach-Goers Could Get a Bigger Road Through Stonehenge

WIRED | 4/20/2019 | Nick Stockton
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Stonehenge! The UK’s premier archaeological destination—a ring of stones constructed by the ancients somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago—sits along a roadway known as the A303. However, not every car on this route is bound for the mysterious menhirs. Many just want to go to the beach. See, the A303 is also one of the main arteries connecting London to the nation’s southwest coast. The road bottlenecks as it passes by Stonehenge, holding up beachbound pilgrims for hours each weekend, and all summer long. But soon, a logistically complex new plan to tunnel near the Stonehenge site could unjam the traffic.

If backhoes do bite into that primeval soil, it will be the culmination of decades of contentious improvement efforts. Protesters have fought the government’s road-widening plans for nearly 70 years—and many aren’t happy with the current proposal. But the plan recently entered a penultimate review period with the UK’s Secretary of Transport, and it has support from several important UK heritage groups. The idea? Dig a tunnel near the iconic circle of stones, burying nearly 2 miles of the A303 for a cost of about $2 billion.

Century - A303 - Country - Road - Londoners

Until the mid-20th century, the A303 was a two-lane country road. But Londoners were cramming their cars onto it to reach the nation’s picturesque southern shore. By 1959, the congestion was thick enough that a Parliamentarian complained in session about traffic jams extending 15 miles in the summertime. The UK government began improving sections of the road in the 60s, widening portions to three, and even four, lanes. But Stonehenge is so archaeologically important—and has such a hold on the popular imagination—that when the Department for Transport proposed expanding it to four lanes in the 1970s, protesters successfully convinced the broader public that the road improvements would be akin to paving a highway...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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