Drivers will be able to use an extra lane on a section of the M1 near Wakefield after tonight (Monday), ahead of the new smart motorway going live.
A 50mph speed limit will remain in place while contractors for Highways England test the technology before the last phase of the system goes live between junction 41 (Morley) and junction 42 (Lofthouse).
Before Christmas the smart motorway came into operation between junction 39 (Denby Dale) and junction 41 and an extra lane was opened on the northbound carriageway between junctions 41 and 42.
As part of the project, the latest technology is being installed to monitor traffic levels, provide traffic information to road users, and ease congestion by using variable speed limits on overhead message signs.
The hard shoulder has been permanently converted into an extra lane between junctions 39 and 42 to provide extra capacity.
Contractors for Highways England have installed 6,172 road studs, put in nearly 7 miles of reinforced concrete barriers in the central reservation and resurfaced the same length on both carriageways. And they have also put in 10 overhead gantries with 38 electronic signs as part of the full scheme.
Highways England project manager Tsuwun Bevan said: “Smart motorways are already proving successful in other parts of the country and we have now reached a stage where we can open the last section of the M1 between junctions 41 and 42. By opening this extra lane it will help to reduce congestion during peak times for drivers by providing four lanes to ease the flow of traffic.
“The overhead signs will display a mandatory 50mph speed limit for the first week while we test the technology but after that drivers will benefit from a variable electronic speed limit that will vary in response to the driving conditions.”
Testing of the new technology is expected to take approximately a week with the new smart motorway due to be open by Monday February 1.
Contractors will return to site over the next few months to carry out some additional maintenance work such as bridge waterproofing and resurfacing of the carriageway. This will mean there could be overnight and weekend closures while this takes place.