Local councillors have welcomed news that Minister for Tourism, Shane Ross, has appointed Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII ) to progress the greenway from Athlone to Galway.
Minister Ross announced on a visit to Athlone recently that TII has been appointed to finally progress the greenway to Galway.
Any plan will involve close consultation with landowners whose land could be impacted by the amenity, while fair and equitable compensation will also be made, according to Minister Ross.
Councillors unanimously welcomed the news, with Mayor Aengus O'Rourke commenting that the extension of the amenity could be "transformative" in nature for Athlone and the towns around it. However, local representatives also stressed the need to satisfy the concerns of landowners set to be impacted by any proposed route.
Cllr John Dolan (FG ) spoke of attending a meeting in Loughrea two years ago, where 60 farmers gathered to express their opposition to the proposed route, which they felt was being forced on them at the time.
The problem is there is no natural route, Cllr Dolan said at last week's meeting, and some of the suggestions made in 2015 made little sense. One dairy farmer would have had the land he uses to bring in his cows crossed at three separate points, he added. Cllr Dolan said farmers and landowners in Galway are not against the greenway, but that the issue remains "raw" among them.
Cllr Michael O'Brien (Ind ) said people approach him regularly to tell him how much they value the greenway as an amenity. He added that more services and facilities are now needed on the greenway due to the numbers of people using it.
Cllr Paul Hogan (SF ) said the greenway has been a major boost to towns and villages along its route, and that he expects the project to move more quickly now that TII is involved.
Director of services, Barry Kehoe said he believes TII will move carefully in order to ensure a satisfactory agreement for all parties is come to. He agreed that increased services and facilities are needed on the greenway, and said that they will be provided as soon as funding comes available.
Councillors also heard that the next phase of the greenway from the White Gates to the marina is being held up. This stretch of Greenway is complicated because it involves constructing an underpass beneath the Dublin to Galway railway line. This includes undertaking ground investigation works on a section of land belonging to Dunnes Stores at Montree, which are not expected to take place until October at the earliest.
Construction of the bridge over the River Shannon is expected to take place in 2019.