MOTORISTS face more delays to their journeys because the prolonged rain is threatening to delay work on a multi-million improvement scheme on the A64.
The Brambling Fields junction project on the A64 end of Norton, which began earlier this year, was scheduled for completion by the end of June.
But April’s significant rain has made parts of the site inaccessible.
As a result North Yorkshire County Council and the Highways Agency have warned that the completion date is likely to slip.
Shopkeepers in Norton have complained that the work is having a knock-on effect on their businesses coming so soon after the work that was done last year to upgrade Commercial Street.
The work has caused heavy traffic problems in Malton and Norton and bus services, such as the Coastliner to Scarborough, have had to be diverted.
This is because motorists en route towards Scarborough would normally travel along Scarborough Road out of Norton to the junction to join the A64.
But that route is effectively blocked off to such traffic because of the work on the junction.
It has meant that traffic has had to travel from Norton along Castlegate in Malton to the Butcher’s Corner traffic lights where they can then take the route through Old Malton to join the A64 before resuming their journey eastward towards Scarborough or travel along York Road westwards towards York.
This has often meant severe hold-ups along Castlegate especially at busy times and when the railway crossing is down.
The contractors working on the new junction are confident that the scheme will be completed well in time for the start of the school summer holidays when traffic flows on the A64 traditionally see a marked increase.
County Cllr Gareth Dadd, executive member for Highways on North Yorkshire County Council, said: “The prolonged rainfall made ground conditions very difficult on the site.
“April’s rain was unusual in its intensity and duration and unfortunately the consequence has been that the contractors will suffer a small delay while the ground becomes less saturated.
“However, the contractors are confident that the good progress made so far on the scheme means that the delay to the overall project will be limited.”
Cllr Keith Knaggs, the leader of Ryedale District Council – which is jointly funding the scheme with the County Council and the Highways Agency – said: “There has been nothing that we can do about this unusually heavy and extensive rain and this has inevitably had an impact where major earth moving is involved.
“Thankfully the delay is relatively small and we will soon see the opening of this crucial highways scheme within the budget allocated.
“This investment will provide Malton and Norton with major benefits for decades to come, and allow much through traffic to avoid the heart of the towns.”
One of the aims of the scheme is to allow traffic travelling eastward along the A64 to turn off and head towards Norton and the industrial estate, which houses firms such as the Malton Bacon Factory, or to continue onto places such as Driffield and Beverley without having to go through the centre of Malton.
As well as easing traffic congestion at places such as Butcher’s Corner officials say it should also lower the air pollution there.