Plans have been approved to widen a busy road bridge in south-west England by cantilevering a cycleway and footpath from the side of the structure.

The designs for the US$20.5 million scheme to widen and improve one of Exeter’s busiest commuter routes were approved by Devon County Council.

Adding the cantilevered path to the bridge will allow the congested route to be widened to two traffic lanes.

About US$3 million of the project costs have already been invested in the scheme design and on installing piled concrete foundations in the piers of the historic Grade II listed Countess Wear Bridge, to support the new cantilevered cycleway and walkway. This will provide the space needed on the road over the bridge to be widened to two lanes in both directions, while also improving pedestrian and cycling access.

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council cabinet member for economy and growth, said: “Upgrading this route will reduce traffic queuing at the Countess Wear roundabout which will help keep traffic moving, reduce delays and ensure reliable journey times – all of which is key to support the housing and employment development planned in and around the city. The improvements will also improve sustainable travel options.”

The aim is for the scheme contract to be awarded in January 2016.