A preferred route for the new dualled A120 between Marks Tey and Braintree has been revealed.

Essex County Council has been working on proposals for a new road since 2014 and has already committed £5 million to fund an essential feasibility project.

A huge 68 route options were initially whittled down to five, and then four, before highways bosses announced route option D was their preferred route on Friday.

In total it could cost £550 million and could be open by 2026.

The chosen route leaves the current A120 at Galleys Corner junction in Braintree.

It the travels south, past Cressing and Silver End, passes Bradwell Quarry and the site of the planned Rivenhall Incinerator and rejoins the A12 at Junction 23, just west of Kelvedon.

Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council and councillor responsible for infrastructure, announced the council’s preferred route at a meeting with stakeholders on Friday.

He said: “If we miss this opportunity we have let down the next generation.

“It is important economically for the county, the region and the UK.

“The A120 is almost unique as it has a port at one end and an airport at the other.”

About 82 per cent of the public supported the principle of replacing the tired single-lane trunk road.

But opinion was split on a route and a decision was delayed in November

Now it can be revealed Option D scored highest using a system judged on strategic, economic, managerial and financial criteria.

Mr Bentley believes the chosen route will be the least divisive out of the potential options.

He said: “I have had a lot of correspondence since we started the process, but I have had few people contact me about this route.

“It has the least impact on residents and people living in the area. But I remain open on hearing people’s concerns however and it is important we continue to do that.”

Despite a recent delay to plans to widen the A12 between Boreham and Marks Tey because of the development of the North Essex Garden Communities, Mr Bentley insisted the project was ready to progress, if selected as part of the Government’s Road Investment Strategy 2 in 2019.

He added: “We have been very clear that this route is not related to the placement of any garden community.

“Clearly the road will involve the A12 because we are planning on building a new junction at the A12, but our team has worked very closely with Highways England.

“There is a delay to the A12 widening because of the garden communities, however I do not think that will delay this scheme.”

The road could open in 2026.