Nearly 30,000 online responses have been received to a consultation on proposals for a multi-billion pound road link across the River Thames.
The consultation, which closed last week after eight weeks, has also seen nearly 13,000 people visit public events to learn more about the options for the link between Essex and Kent.
All responses to the consultation will now be analysed before a final decision on a preferred route is made by the Government; this is expected later this year.
A new road, which could be open in 2025, would relieve congestion at the existing Dartford Crossing and improve the resilience of the road network by providing a new alternative link across the Thames.
Roads minister Andrew Jones said: “We are committed to delivering a Lower Thames Crossing which will increase capacity and provide better, faster journeys across the Thames. Once complete it could add over £7 billion to the economy and create over 5,000 new jobs nationally.
“It is good to see so many people have their say on the proposals. Those views will now be taken into account before a decision on a preferred route for the crossing is made.”
Highways England consultation manager Martin Potts said: “The number of responses and people we’ve seen at the events has been really encouraging.
“We appreciate that where the new crossing should go is a vitally important decision for local people and we wanted to get as many views as possible to make sure we provide a comprehensive and thorough recommendation to the Government.
“We need to get the best balance between improving journeys and getting value for money while managing the impact on the local area.”
The Lower Thames Crossing will be the first new crossing of the Thames east of London since the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge opened at Dartford 25 years ago.
In 2014, following a public consultation led by DfT, two locations were shortlisted for a new bridge or tunnel across the river: one near the existing Dartford Crossing and the other linking the M2 with the M25 via the A13, with a possible further link to the M20.
Since then, Highways England has carried out detailed work with a wide range of stakeholders to assess the shortlisted options and develop possible routes at each location. Following that evaluation, a new road crossing through a bored tunnel was recommended at location C.
The proposed road would run from the end of the M2, crossing under the river just east of Gravesend and Tilbury and joining the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.
Since the consultation launched on January 26, nearly 13,000 people have attended the 24 public information events held at venues across Kent and Essex and nearly 30,000 responses have been submitted online. A number of additional responses to the consultation were submitted by post and are still being collated.
The next stage of assessment and design will be the basis for further consultation, following which Highways England will make a Development Consent Order application. Subject to the necessary funding and planning approvals, the new crossing would be open in 2025, if publicly funded. If private funding is also used to meet the costs of the project, it is anticipated the crossing would be open by 2027.