|Location Map ( geo)|
|Looking southeast at the Bilston Lane junction|
|in phases between c.1972 and 1990|
The original plan for The Keyway was as the Willenhall Spur from the Bilston Link Motorway, first made public in 1962. After a number of delays, the initial section which allowed traffic to bypass Willenhall town centre, providing relief from the original Victorian bypass along New Road was constructed by Wolverhampton County Borough with an official opening on 27 March 1974 (per an ATV News clip on Mace Archive). This section was constructed to urban motorway standards, though it opened as an all purpose road. This original section simply ran from Portobello Island to the junction with Bilston Lane; which just happened to be the location of the local authority boundary. The latter junction was constructed with full grade separation in place, including all four slip roads and the roadway underneath the junction, ready for the second section to be constructed which would have joined the road to the Bilston Link Motorway at a fully free-flowing interchange.
The Bilston Link road plans were abandoned by the Government in a decision on 22 January 1976, and officially ended in October 1979, leaving The Keyway running for 300 yards into a field after the Bilston Lane junction. No further work was carried out on The Keyway until circa 1990, when Walsall MBC decided to extend The Keyway, despite it having nowhere sensible to connect to. This section ran from the Bilston Road junction to the A462 on Midland Road, where the two routes met at a flat roundabout. This section was constructed as a dual carriageway, though it was extremely lightly used, as it was only really valuable for traffic heading between Wolverhampton and the industrial area on the northern side of Darlaston.
Almost immediately upon the opening of this road, the go-ahead for construction of what had now become the Black Country Route had been given. And unfortunately, half of the brand new section of The Keyway had been constructed directly upon its line. Another new linking section was therefore constructed between a temporary roundabout at the present location of the Keyway Junction, causing what is now the A463 between this junction and A462 came into being, though not as part of The Keyway. This then allowed the section constructed in error to be torn up, allowing the Black Country Route and the final layout of the Keyway Junction to be completed in around 1994.
Whilst the initial section of The Keyway was constructed by Wolverhampton County Borough and managed by it and its successor authorities, the local authority boundary between Wolverhampton County Borough and Walsall County Borough at that time was aligned to be down the central reservation. A small boundary change on 1 April 1994 moved the boundary to the western edge of the roadway, and as such the entire route is now managed by Walsall MBC, whilst City of Wolverhampton Council no longer has any manangement responsibility for the road.
The Keyway in its entirety has a speed limit of 50mph; which was imposed when the link to the Black Country Route opened. Prior to that date, the initial section was under National Speed Limit, whilst the section south of Bilston Lane (including the section that was replaced) opened with a 30mph limit, meaning a 70 -> 30 transition under the junction with no change in road standards.
The name of the road project (and the actual "street name" of the road itself) is a nod to the historic industry of Willenhall - that of the manufacture of locks and keys.
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