The ‘new’ downstream bridge in Barnstaple has been crossed more than 86 million times since it opened in May 2007

Barnstaple’s Taw Bridge celebrates its 10th anniversary today (Tuesday).

Since it opened on May 23, 2007, the Barnstaple Western Bypass has seen more than 86million vehicles crossing over it.

The £42m Devon County Council scheme was hailed as the answer to the town’s traffic problems and created an instant link between Pottington and Sticklepath.

Until then people wanting to cross the river had to drive into town and queue on The Strand – usually at a standstill – giving the town the unwanted title ‘home of the traffic jam’.

Scans of the North Devon Gazette, May 30, 2007 - our reporting on the opening of the Taw Bridge.Scans of the North Devon Gazette, May 30, 2007 - our reporting on the opening of the Taw Bridge.

The bridge was officially opened by the then leader of Devon County Council, Councillor Brian Greenslade, who said: “It was with considerable pleasure and pride that I was able to open the bypass in May 2007 after many years of campaigning for this £42m highway improvement.

“Imagine what Barnstaple would now be like if most of these traffic movements had to come through the town instead.

“So the bypass has done its expected job for our town but growing development around Barnstaple is steadily increasing pressure on the highway network.

“So it is good that DCC have done capacity improvements at the Roundswell roundabout, are working on the Portmore roundabout and the A39 junction with the hospital.”

Scans of the North Devon Gazette, May 30, 2007 - our reporting on the opening of the Taw Bridge.Scans of the North Devon Gazette, May 30, 2007 - our reporting on the opening of the Taw Bridge.

When the bridge was officially opened a police escort led the first cars across and in the Gazette coverage at the time, people used words such as ‘unbelievable’, ‘amazing’ and ‘fantastic’ to describe the lack of traffic at some of the most notorious hotspots.

The 2.7 kilometre bypass and 409 metre bridge was the largest civil engineering project undertaken by the county council in the previous 20 years.

The need for a bypass and another means of crossing the River taw had been identified as early as 1979.

Its implementation saw previously busy routes transformed, with the likes of Sticklepath Hill – once a hotbed of traffic and a main route – turned into a sleepy backwater.

The construction work was carried out by Edmund Nuttall Limited, beginning in November 2004.

During that time, 200,000 tonnes of earth was cut out for the new infrastructure and a further 500,000 tonnes of material brought in from across Devon.

The bridge used 38,000 tonnes of concrete in its construction as well as 2,000 tonnes of steel.