The Leeds Inner Ring Road is one motorway with two numbers, designated A58(M) from its western end to Claypit Lane and A64(M) from there to the eastern end. The A64(M) part is very small, and might well be Britain's shortest motorway. Whether it is or not depends how you count the mileage. You see, the A64(M)'s eastbound carriageway is much longer than the westbound — and so one carriageway is longer than the A308(M), the other is shorter. So if you count the distance both carriageways run side-by-side, the A64(M) is shorter, but if you count the part where it only exists eastbound, the A308(M) wins.
The A64(M) is so confusingly lopsided because Woodpecker Junction, where the motorway terminates and becomes the A64, was meant to be something bigger. In the 1970s it was planned to be the point where the Inner Ring Road turned south to connect with some unfinished ends at junction 3 of the M621. This was never done; so what would have been a double-deck road structure only exists in one direction. Eastbound traffic goes on the top deck all the way, but westbound the motorway can't begin until the other half of the top deck appears.
The rest of the Inner Ring Road, in terms of engineering, is something of a masterpiece. It removes a massive amount of through traffic from the city streets without really being noticable at all. It runs almost entirely in a vertical-sided cutting, up to 20ft deep, with numerous short cut-and-cover tunnels. It hides the road and shields its noise so effectively that even when walking it's hard to tell you're anywhere near it until you find yourself on an overbridge looking down at four lanes of fast moving traffic.
At North Street, there's the unusual design feature of a right-hand exit sliproad when heading eastbound. Early plans of the route reveal that this was added to save space, the alternative being an exit slip around the outside of the current loop, which would have interfered with the merge from the A660. The same early plan showed the sliproads to the A61 at Claypit Lane on the inside of the junction, with the mainline passing around the outside — a pair of right-hand entry and exits, which thankfully were never built!
Finally, this was the UK's first ever urban motorway, opening shortly before Manchester's A57(M) Mancunian Way by a year or two and more famous roads like Westway by several years.
|Finish||Quarry Hill (A64)|
Views of the A64(M) from on and off the road. If you have a photo to contribute, contact me.
Looking north towards the Westgate tunnel, with the southbound (non-motorway) side of Westgate to the right, and on the left, a cramped pair of braided sliproads. On top of the retaining wall is an exit, below is an entry.
Woodhouse Lane multi-storey car park, seen looking west from Claypit Lane (the A61). The road reaches its widest point here, with 12 parallel lanes across six carriageways just below us.
The notorious right-hand exit is here at North Street - and look how close it is to the entry! Beyond this point, the motorway is the A64(M).
Looking west from the Quarry Hill footbridge, the A64(M) appears to plough straight in to the city ahead of us. Below, a sliproad dives down from the top deck to the bottom. To the left of the picture, the westbound side can be seen climbing a steep ramp to the top deck.
Facing east from the same viewpoint, the rest of the motorway - in its entirety - is before us. Only the left-hand, eastbound carriageway is motorway here; the right-hand one is just A64, as evidenced by the set of lights behind the gantry sign.
When the various parts of the A64(M) were built, listed in chronological order.
|1964||Phase I Westgate → Claypit Lane|
|1969||Phase II Claypit Lane → Woodpecker Jct|
|1975||Phase III Westgate → Armley Gyratory|
All the junctions and destinations along the route.
The A660 junction incorporates Woodhouse Lane multi-storey car park, built directly above the Inner Ring Road with direct access sliproads from the motorway itself. It appears in the exit list as the grey block with blue and white 'P' symbol.