THE preferred new route for the dualled A358 near Taunton will not be revealed until the spring, it has emerged.

Somerset motorists will have to wait to find out the route as Highways England, which is responsible for England’s motorways and major A roads, works on plans to dual the A358 between the M5 near Taunton and the Southfields roundabout near Ilminster.

The agency’s preferred route was due to be announced by the end of November following the initial round of public consultation and input from Somerset County Council’s highways team.

READ MORE: Consultation over plans to dual the A358 ends

But this announcement has now been delayed until the spring to allow for further assessment work to decide which route would be best.

David Stock, Highways England’s project manager for the A358 scheme, said: “We had hoped to announce the preferred route this autumn, and we understand people’s frustrations, but we must make sure we can present the best possible solution for the A358 and this has necessitated a lot of assessment work based on the balance of cost, economics and impact.”

Highways England said in a separate statement that “further engineering and economic evaluation was required to help ensure that the route finally proposed is the right one”.

Mr Stock did not confirm whether the decision to announce the preferred route in the spring of 2019 would push back the start date on construction of the new road.

He added: “We are considering how this change to our programme will impact our target date for starting work, and we will confirm this when we announce our preferred route in the spring.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: The three options for the A358 between Taunton and Ilminster

The communities affected by the dualling of the A358 will be contacted early in 2019 to ensure they are being kept up to date with the latest developments.

Mr Stock said: “We’re very grateful to everyone who participated in our consultation, and we completely understand that people want a solution as soon as possible to the congestion and long delays they currently experience and the harmful impact on the region’s economy.

“We hope to announce the preferred solution in the spring, we’ll be keeping community groups informed in the meantime, and the public will have another chance to comment on the proposals after we have developed the design of the preferred route.”

Once the preferred route has been announced, a further round of public consultation will take place, after which a planning application for the road – known as a development control order or DCO will be submitted.

The dualling of this section of the A358 is estimated to cost between £250m and £500m.