The crux of the problem in the City was the north - south road, Briggate, which the city had developed around and the east - west road, The Headrow, that crossed it in the centre. Through traffic was in excess of 40% and the answer proposed in 1955 was an inner ring road. By 1963 this had been raised to the status of a motorway, the first urban motorway in this country. As it was to be constructed in the heart of the city, land was at a premium, environmental intrusion on housing, business and hospital had to be minimised and the many existing main access roads kept functioning.
The solution was a dual 24 ft. (7.3m) carriageway road in a cutting approximately 20 ft. (6m) below ground level retained by vertical walls. The result is a road generally hidden from view except at bridge crossing points and no complaints as to noise or intrusion were received. The design is based more on a normal road than a motorway in that kerbs were provided as a safety measure and the narrow 5 ft. (1.5m) verges and 10 ft. (3m) central reserve were paved with concrete slabs to reduce maintenance and a 40 mph speed limit was imposed.
The line passed through large areas of condemned housing and obsolescent industrial premises. The opportunity was taken to clear them and re-house the people in a rational and phased manner, keeping them together as far as possible. Such were the times that work started in 1964 but the Public Inquiry by the then Ministry of Transport was not held until 1966 when Leeds pioneered the Urban Motorway Procedure and Stages 1 and 11 were confirmed as a Special Roads Scheme.
The first two stages formed a ring of 1860 ft. (567m) and the slip roads were "braided" to minimise land take and in one case the exit slip was from the right hand lane. At the western end the university lay a little distant to the north and the Infirmary to the south. It was agreed to form a University - Hospital precinct by roofing the road for a distance of 1200 ft. (366m) thereby creating useable space of one hectare. The University provided the design and the two bodies paid the extra cost of £300,000. This again was a first in this country, long before the shopping over the A1. In the event the financial climate prevented the building of a teaching hospital but the City funded a temporary lightweight construction for a contemporary theatre, The Leeds Playhouse. Its red fluorescent sign could be seen for many years above the entrance portal of the tunnel.
Ground conditions at foundation levels were highly variable and included the line of a major fault. Situated in a former coal mining area many small bell holes were encountered, created by individuals mining in a bygone era. A large pocket of coal was found near Woodhouse Lane crossing and some 2000 tons were extracted under license from the National Coal Board.
Particular research was carried out regarding the possible effect of diesel and oil spillage by heavy lorries in the tunnels. To avoid the problem of cleaning the build up of oil deposits on asphalt the main carriageways were constructed of reinforced concrete. Similarly to alleviate the cleaning problems caused by pollution in the tunnels, the walls were faced with one inch square mosaic tiles.
Sodium lighting tubes in waterproof lanterns, mounted just below the crest of the cutting formed the main lighting but at complex intersections a different provision was required. Swedish Uddeholm masts, 85ft. (26m) high, with 4, 1000 watt lamps at the head were used, another first.
Considerable use was made of rock anchors and rock bolts as special underpinning and permanent support works to various factories etc. which were to remain virtually on the edge of the cutting.
A novel feature not included in the original scheme was the construction of an elegant footbridge over the section to the Quarry Hill Flats complex. These corporation flats were a first in Britain, built in the thirties and incorporating the Garchy system of waste disposal. Thousands of people lived there and complained they were cut off from the social area of the church, school and clubs. One empty flat was cleared and the footbridge sprang from this across the road and access was from the inner part of the complex.
A forerunner of today's contracts was one negotiated for the second stage works. This was with the successful contractor for the first section, Lehane, McKenzie and Shand, entailing some design, programming and agreeing all rates in the agreed Bill of Quantities which meant breaking down confidential information on costs, profit and overheads.
Although not part of the Inner Ring Road the principle of the Woodhouse Lane Multi-Storey Car park for long term commuters was an integral part of the transportation policy that inspired it. The car park for 1320 cars is constructed over the motorway, thus reducing land take, is visible to motorists and easily accessible from the motorway for quick access to the centre by foot or park and ride. An unusual feature is the external, suspended, 'speed ramp' enabling quick access and exit to the top floors at the appropriate peak hour.
In addition to the main tunnel there are another four under-intersections averaging 70 - 100m in length. The end sections of the ring connecting it to the main road network are on viaducts. Two are multi span design. The third at the eastern end as it runs into York Road, is a two level viaduct 560m long, carrying the motorway at the top level and the general traffic at the lower. There are eight bridges carrying roads over the motorway but it bridges the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool Canal. Four footbridges and two subway complexes cater for pedestrian movement.
The motorway, of length 2 miles (3.23km) was constructed in four sections commencing in 1964 and completed in 1975. The contractors were for Stages 1 and 2, Lehane, McKenzie & Shand, for Stage 2a, W. & C. French & Sons and for Stage 3, C. Bryant. The total cost including side road alterations was £12,500,000 at 1970 prices and 75% grant was received. The scheme was designed and supervised by the City of Leeds Engineer's Department.