More than 60,000 tonnes of earth, rock and old concrete materials have been excavated for sections of the city's new dual carriageway.

The road, which will improve community connections, is part of the £1.5bn package of city-wide public and private sector investment projects that Sunderland has planned over the next five years.

This third phase of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC 3) begins at the southern end of the Northern Spire. It is a dual carriageway through Pallion, running underneath the Queen Alexandra Bridge, into Deptford and onto the city centre and St Mary's Boulevard.

Its design takes into account the land's former use, its geology and gradients. It includes the construction of 1.2 miles (2kms) of retaining walls and structures that will be nearly 40ft (12 metres) high.

The £35m scheme is being delivered for Sunderland City Council by local civil engineering specialists Esh Civils, the civil engineering division of Esh Construction.

Major earth removal and excavation works began in June close to Pallion Engineering Ltd using heavy construction plant. The 60,000 cubic tonnes of materials - rocks, stones and old concrete from buried structures and buildings - have been separated and processed on site by a crusher hopper. They can be reused as engineering fill for the foundations and landscape around the new carriageway.

Councillor Amy Wilson, the City Council's Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport and a ward member for Pallion, has just toured the site. She said it was 'amazing' to see all the progress so far.

She said: "There's a lot going on with all these ground and excavation works. It's already amazing to see these big and deep excavations that are many feet deep and hundreds of feet long.

"As the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, I'm very pleased to see so much of what has been excavated is being recycled and processed into new construction materials. There is an amazing amount of work going on behind the scenes for this investment in our city.

In coming weeks, as the excavations are complete, a series of piling works will begin for the foundations of the new retaining wall that is being built into the bankside of Pallion New Road.

Andrew Georgeson, Operations Director Esh Civils, said: "The site team have reached a milestone in segregating and processing such large quantities of buried structures and buildings which, with careful planning and thought, can now be reused as engineering fill for the project.

"We have a strong sustainable model for delivering this major project. All the processing work reinforces this approach by reducing our environmental impact and increasing our local specialist supply chain to assist in our success."

The Northern Spire over the Wear opened a year ago and the new route into central Sunderland opens up more development opportunities as well as improving city connectivity.

Ken Heads, the City Council's Infrastructure and Commercial Manager and SSTC3 Project Director said: "The change to this area in these early stages of the project are astonishing and we are all looking forward to seeing more works in the coming months."

Closer to the city centre, traffic management is in place along Trimdon St and at Hylton Roundabout allowing works to progress for service diversions and alignment of the proposed carriageway.

It will take up to 27 months to complete the phase 3 works with a target opening of Autumn 2021.

The SSTC programme is in five phases. These are:

Phase 1 - St Mary's Boulevard in the city centre (completed)
Phase 2 - Northern Spire and approach roads (completed)
Phase 3 - City centre and dual carriageway links (underway)
Phase 4 - Wessington Way improvements between the A19 and the Northern Spire
Phase 5 - St Mary's Boulevard to the Port of Sunderland.