The Department for Transport has called in plans for Halton's new £390m Mersey Gateway Bridge.
The inquiry into whether a second bridge should be built across the River Mersey will take place at the start of next year and will last for three months. Those involved in the project predict that a decision will be announced in late 2009.
If approved, construction work would begin in 2011, with the target being to open the new toll bridge in 2014. Plans were put forward to the Secretary of State in July 2008 after Halton councillors gave the scheme their backing.
The second crossing would ease congestion currently experienced by users of the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge. The bridge will offer three lanes in each direction, roughly 1.5 km to the east of the first crossing.
The project includes modifications to the Silver Jubilee Bridge to improve facilities for public transport, walking and cycling. The scheme would also see new leisure, housing, and office premises built in Widnes and Runcorn to regenerate parts of the towns. Large areas of land would be cleared and compulsory purchase orders would be used to buy land along the route so that the project could go ahead.