INITIAL work on a major project to construct a road into the Port of Leith is to get under way as early as next month.
The new route will allow heavy goods vehicles to access the docks area, which has been earmarked for the renewable energy industry and forecast to create thousands of jobs.
Scottish Enterprise and Edinburgh City Council are appointing contractors to take on the £15 million project, which is intended to “unlock” the port as an asset and minimise disruption to residents.
The route – which would be built in part on disused industrial land and by linking existing roads – would take HGVs away from the Commercial Street, Bernard Street and Salamander Street areas.
Earlier this year Gamesa, the Spanish renewable energy company, entered into a memorandum of understanding with landowner Forth Ports to develop a turbine plant at Leith.
Frank Ross, the city’s economy leader, said: “Improved transport links to the Port of Leith will be crucial in repositioning Leith as a 21st century gateway port serving Scotland and Europe.”
Scottish Enterprise is working on a revised masterplan which would guide any development and will contain the exact details of the work.
Construction work is scheduled to begin in early 2014 and take around a year. It would, for example, see Albert Road extended across a patch of disused land and connected to Ocean Drive near to the Genting Casino.
Chas Booth, a Leith councillor, said there is initial support among traders and residents who have complained about heavy traffic along Constitution Street in recent years.
He said: “Firstly this project will help to improve the attractiveness of Leith docks to wind turbine manufacturers or other heavy industrial companies by providing greater access.
“The second advantage is it will take many HGVs off the fairly residential streets including Constitution street and Commercial Street.
“The initial feedback is positive, in particular the idea of taking heavy traffic off the residential streets.”
The new project will require access roads at Lindsay Road and Seafield Road, connecting with Ocean Drive. This link is intended to provide improved connectivity with the port and unlock 150 hectares of surrounding development land which is difficult to access.
There would also be environmental benefits from reduced traffic on the existing road network, transport chiefs said.
Scottish Enterprise is hiring experts to carry out initial studies for the route, and the city council last week appointed consultancy Amey to manage the project. A spokeswoman for Forth Ports said: “We are running a thriving port at Leith and are pleased it has been identified as having long-term potential for the renewables industry. We remain supportive of investment in infrastructure that supports the port’s potential.”