A PUBLIC inquiry into plans to build a second Mersey crossing will take place in May.
A planning inspector will hear arguments for and against building the so-called Mersey Gateway in Halton's Stobart Stadium for between eight and 10 weeks.
It is hoped construction work on the £431m project will then start in 2011 if the Secretary of State gives the go-ahead.
Cllr Tony McDermott, leader of Halton Borough Council and Chair of the Mersey Gateway executive board, said he was "looking forward" to the start of the inquiry.
He added: "This project will be good for the economy, good for the environment and good for Halton. It will provide a long-term solution to the congestion problems that are hampering the economy, bring jobs and investment to our area and also play a major part in helping the Liverpool City Region regain its status as a premier European city."
David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council, also said: "We have said all along that this project is about much more than just a new bridge.
"The current economic downturn makes these wider benefits of the Mersey Gateway even more crucial for the region.
"The Stobart Group estimates that the 3MG project in Widnes could create 5,000 jobs in the next 10-15 years, and the project will be crucial in assisting in delivering these jobs."
Following several years of development, Halton submitted plans for the new six-lane bridge to the Government last year.
But the Department for Transport announced called for a public inquiry into the project at the end of September.
The inquiry will start on May 19 and the bridge should be completed by 2014. THE DAILY POST