YORK is set for another six months of traffic misery next year after highways chiefs ruled out extra lanes at the A64 roadworks.

This autumn's crippling congestion on the dual carriageway and across the city centre has largely been caused by the single-lane contraflow bottleneck at Copmanthorpe.

City of York Council and the Evening Press called last month for two lanes to be created in each direction when phase two of the roadworks starts in January.

But the Highways Agency said that after carefully investigating the proposal, it had decided additional lanes would not be possible "due to safety requirements and physical constraints."

The only exception will be on part of the westbound road where, from early spring, the agency hopes an extra lane can be provided.

The continuing bottleneck will inevitably mean more severe congestion, particularly at busy times such as the February half-term, Easter, and the May Day and Spring Bank Holiday periods. The project is not due to finish until June at the earliest.

However, the agency had better news for motorists in the next few weeks as the first phase of the £4.1 million project to build an underpass and remove the traffic lights at Top Lane, Copmanthorpe, comes to an end.

It said that after introducing Sunday working, it was working towards reopening the newly-reconstructed eastbound carriageway between Askham Bryan and the A1036 Tadcaster Road by Friday December 7.

This should let shoppers from West Yorkshire drive freely into York on the three crucial pre-Christmas Saturdays, when retailers hope to do their best business of the year. Only through traffic heading east around York will need to go through the contraflow.

The dual carriageway will subsequently re-open completely for a fortnight over the Christmas and New Year period before the start of phase two on January 5.

The agency says more signing will be installed by the New Year to provide better information for people who wish to visit York or travel through the area. "There will be ten signs as far afield as South Yorkshire and Goole, giving drivers advanced warning of the ongoing works.

"Eighteen signs will also be erected in the area giving details of local radio stations."

Agency project manager David Phillips said the proposed measures would go some way to reducing congestion by providing better information for motorists and making maximum use of available road space.

Updated: 10:11 Friday, November 23, 2001