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Historic towns and villages in Wales were built at a time of horse drawn transport, and are not designed for today`s heavy traffic. For example, Llanbedr on the west coast of Wales can be very congested, especially in the summer. The village has been waiting for years for the construction of a by-pass.
The A470 road forms the main route between Cardiff and north Wales. This road passed through small towns, but a number of by-passes have been built to allow traffic to flow more easily and reduce the journey time. A new by-pass avoids the old town of Brecon.
The centre of Brecon is now much less congested. It has become safer for pedestrians to walk around the town. People who wish to drive into Brecon to visit the shops and restaurants can do so more easily, so the construction of the by-pass has not had a negative effect on local businesses.
It can sometimes be difficult to find a suitable route for a by-pass, especially where a town lies in a narrow valley. In Dolgellau, it was possible to construct a by-pass along the track of a disused railway which ran through the town.
Some main roads are regularly flooded during periods of heavy rain over the mountains. Long journeys may be needed to avoid sections of road which are closed. A particular problem occurs at Machynlleth, where the River Dyfi often floods low lying fields where the main road crosses the valley.
A new road has been built across the low lying fields. The road is carried on a viaduct above the level of possible floods. The new road also avoids the old stone bridge over the River Dyfi. This bridge could cause traffic congestion, and was frequently damaged by collisions with heavy goods vehicles.
In mountainous parts of Wales, improvements to roads can require major engineering work. Alongside the Dyfi estuary, the main road to Aberystwyth was squeezed onto a very narrow strip of land. This caused traffic delays and was dangerous for vehicles. A road widening scheme required a large amount of rock to be removed, and a new wall built to support the valley side.
Many roads in Wales run along the steep sides of valleys. Landslips are common, especially where the valley sides are made from deposits of sand and clay. Repairs usually involve building a new concrete wall to support the road. Roads may be closed for months, or even years, while the work is carried out. This can have a serious effect on local villages or towns.
The historic Menai suspension bridge which had been built to carry traffic to the port of Holyhead on Anglesey was no longer able to handle the large amount of heavy lorries using the port. In 1970, the railway bridge to Anglesey was destroyed in a fire. This was an excellent opportunity to improve the road connections to the island. A new railway bridge has been built which also carries a major road on an upper deck.
The main cities along the south coast of Wales are connected by the M4 motorway. Traffic congestion is common at busy times. A particular problem occurs at the Brynglas tunnels between Newport and Cardiff. Proposals had been put forward to build an alternative motorway route, but this has not gone ahead. The new road would damage an area of coastal lowland which is important for nature conservation.
There has always been an important transport route along the north coast of Wales. In recent years this has been improved enormously, and much of the road is now a dual carriageway. Major engineering works have been carried out along the route, including a tunnel through the rocky headland at Penmaenmawr, and a tunnel under the Conwy estuary.
One of the most recent road projects in Wales is a scheme to improve the `Heads of the Valleys` road which connects a series of important industrial towns between Abergavenny and Swansea. In places, the road passes through narrow steep sided valleys. Major engineering works have been needed to create space for the new road, and to protect the road from landslips.