IT'S one of Winchester's worst bottlenecks for traffic.

Now, plans for a multi-million pound upgrade for a congested motorway junction have been unveiled.

Highways England wants to carry out major work to the M3 junction 9 at Winnall where the M3 meets the A34 and has developed a scheme set to cost around £100m.

It will be redesigned to create dedicated free flow lanes, allowing drivers travelling between the M3 and the A34 to avoid using the junction roundabout.

The roundabout itself would be redesigned into a ‘dumbbell’ layout to reduce congestion and improve safety, while improved pedestrian and cycling routes will complete the gap in the National Cycling Network.

The proposals are also intended to help to support developments at Southampton container port which are expected to increase freight traffic on the M3 and A34 by one third of the current levels.

Simon Hewett, project manager at Highways England, said the improve junction would act as a "gateway" for Southampton and Portsmouth ports.

"With more than 6,000 vehicles using the junction each hour during peak times, it can often become congested, with queues backing up onto the main carriageway," he said.

"The proposals will resolve that by separating out local and long distance traffic. With the new dedicated link roads, through traffic will not have to stop at the roundabout, freeing it up for local traffic and commuters.

"We hope it will bring regional and national economic growth. This road is also needed for some of the housing developments in the pipelines and a number of jobs being created.

"We are engaging with local businesses to understand their needs and other demands."

Dr Mike Short, chairman of the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said: “We are delighted that the proposed improvements have progressed to the stage of public consultation. This scheme is key investment in our transport infrastructure to support the local economy, by easing transport congestion, which businesses in our area state is a major barrier to growth.

“The improvements are critical to enhancing the strategic corridor that runs all the way from the Port of Southampton to the Midlands and the North, which will help to rebalance the national economy. This corridor has a major national and regional strategic role and this improvement scheme is very welcome.”

The plan was originally delayed by Highways bosses to avoid a clash with other schemes it is running.

It was due to start in March 2020 but was pushed back to mid-2021. It is set to be fully open to traffic by 2023.

The progress is welcomed by Mark Baulch at Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, who said delays at the bottleneck have an economic effect on the area.

Mr Baulch, head of policy and representation, said: "Businesses across the county are highlighting the problems that delays at Junction 9 of the M3 cause them.

"These are not just transport and logistics companies, as others are finding that their staff struggle to travel through this interchange.

"It is also a far wider problem than Winchester alone, as Southampton, Portsmouth and even Salisbury are feeling the effects, with the latter seeing increased traffic levels as drivers try to find a suitable alternative.

"This is a critical issue right now and any delay to improvements to this junction will only make congestion and air quality issues worsen."

There are public consultation events on January 27 at Winchester Guildhall from 10.30am to 4.30pm, and on January 31 from 2pm to 8pm, February 10 at Winnall Community Centre from 10.30am to 4.30pm, February 16 at Kings Worthy Community Centre from 2pm to 8pm and the next day from 10.30pm to 4.30pm.

The deadline for responses is Monday, February 19.