Councillors at Monday's Municipal District Meeting welcomed a new design for the proposed cycleway and pedestrian bridge across the Shannon in Athlone town.
There has been some difficulty in agreeing on the final design on the bridge planned to run from the Radisson Hotel across the river to the Luan Gallery. Initially, it had been planned to mimic the White (rail ) Bridge in the design of this new structure. However, after consultation it was agreed that in order to preserve the identity and uniqueness of the older iconic bridge a different design was needed.
Similarly, councillors acknowledged that this is an important area in terms of scenic beauty along the river, and concerns have been raised around its preservation as such. Councillors all agreed that a minimalist approach could best achieve this, something they felt the original design did not provide. The earlier design included three arches dropping into the river, while the new design will see the bridge supported by a single supporting "foot" about two metres wide.
Councillors agreed that the new design has less of a visual impact on the area, preserving its current image as much as possible. They also discussed the possible impact of the new bridge on the marina. The right-hand side of the new structure will cross over part of the marina. Director of services, Barry Kehoe, said it is important to accommodate the boating community and potential tourists and the council are currently engaging with specialist consultants in order to come up with options to replace the space being displaced.
However, councillors are all satisfied with what they have been presented with. Mayor Tom Farrell called the design a "major improvement" on the previous proposal, while Fianna Fáil's Aengus O'Rourke praised it for its "minimalist" and "discreet" nature. The new bridge design has yet to be put forward to An Bord Pleanála as the preferred option, and public consultation is also yet to take place before the design is fully accepted. Councillors were informed that work on the bridge is likely to take place in 2017.
Barry Kehoe said of the new structure: "This bridge is really important to the future of Athlone, to its tourist potential, and to civic pride in the town".