From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
|Devon • Dorset • Gloucestershire • Wiltshire|
|Current Highways Agency Roads|
|Bath • Bridgwater • Frome • Glastonbury • Minehead • Taunton • Wells • Weston-super-Mare • Yeovil|
|Current Highway Authorities|
|Bath & North East Somerset • North Somerset Council • Somerset County Council|
Somerset is a traditional county in South West England.
Most of the development of Somerset's road network has of course been connected to the M5, the county's only motorway, which now runs through the county from its border with Gloucestershire, past Weston-super-Mare, Bridgwater and Taunton, to the border with Devon. As a result of this, the former main road, the A38 has been demoted to a secondary A-road for almost its entire run through the county, with only the section north of M5 J22 still being a primary route. It has also meant the A38 is unimproved from its 1922 alignment in many places, with the road still running through the centre of both Taunton (although it has been realigned), and Bridgwater. Improvements all along the road have now been suggested by Somerset County Council, however, mostly focusing on the busy sections near Taunton and Bridgwater, where the road is still very busy, due to the large amount of traffic between the towns along the route.
The A303 is the other main road in the county, although improvements to this road has mostly consisted of single carriageway bypasses, for example the S2+1 Ilminster Bypass. The A303 up to Horton Cross has recently been part of the scheme to upgrade the whole route to D2 standard, although it is now very uncertain as to wether this upgrade will actually happen.
The A361 runs through the county, although it is a minor road for almost its entire run, until meeting with the A39 near Glastonbury. It formerly ran through the suburbs of Taunton, and out towards Wiveliscombe. This route is now variously A3259, A358 and B3227. The reason the A361 has been largely replaced is due to the M5, which now takes former A361 traffic out of the county.
The A39 begins in Somerset near Bath, and, after meeting with the A38-M5 pairing in Bridgwater, heads out to Minehead and sticks close to the coast, taking in the 1:4 Porlock Hill, one of the steepest classified roads in the country. This road is fairly minor in Somerset, only gaining importance in Devon and Cornwall; as a result it is still mostly S2.
The majority of traffic movements through the county has always been heavier in the summer, due to tourists heading to Devon, Cornwall and the coastal area around Minehead, home to Somerwest World, a Butlins site. For the latter two, the M5 has taken the load off the formerly choked A38, but the Minehead area is still served by the S2 roads A39 and A358, although the A358 is much less used for that purpose.
In the winter, traffic problems on the M5 are much rarer, but a few hotspots regularly appear in traffic reports - the A30 in Yeovil, the A38 in both Bridgwater and Taunton, and the A303, mostly along the Ilminster Bypass.
Historically, the traffic that now uses the M5 in the summer would have endured a long, slow crawl through the unbypassed towns of Somerset, starting with the southern parts of Bristol, then Bridgwater, where it met (and still meets) the Minehead traffic on the A39, then Taunton, where North Devon traffic split off for the old A361, then finally Wellington, which is the only town along the A38 corridor in Somerset to have been bypassed before the M5, although its relief road was cobbled together from existing country lanes.