Residents in Oughterard have taken to the streets to voice their concerns for the safety of schoolchildren who face heavy traffic crossing the Owenriff River ipon their way to school.
Parents and children gathered on the bridge to highlight their concerns about pedestrian safety.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Galway County Council have progressed plans to construct a new bridge in the town which would cater for growing traffic volumes on the N59 route, with footbridges on either side to ensure pedestrian safety.
However campaigners are warning that this new structure will not be complete for a number of years, while in the meantime pedestrians are forced to use the existing bridge.
“The current bridge does not have any footpaths and children are forced to walk and cycle alongside heavy traffic, often with only inches separating them," said Sinead Grimes, a spokesperson for the campaign group. "There have already been several instances of car wing mirrors knocking against pedestrians, and at rush hour the route is a complete bottleneck as it is not possible for a bus and car to cross at the same time. This is a serious safety hazard and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We do not want our children to be put at risk any longer. It is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Transport Infrastructure Ireland is in the process of completing a Natura Impact Statement and an Environmental Impact Assessment, both of which are required due to the presence of freshwater pearl mussel and other natural heritage in the Owenriff River.
The campaigners are calling for the construction of a pedestrian footbridge, and have voiced concerns that the new vehicular bridge may not be feasible due to environmental concerns.
The Galway County Council had previously set aside some €250,000 to fund the construction of a footbridge, and parents want this footbridge to go ahead as an independent project. Campaigners have warned that the lack of safety measures on the existing bridge "could cost lives" while the town waits for a new bridge.
“We are asking that the council along with TII address these concerns and ensure safe access for the most vulnerable people in our society,” Mrs Grimes continued. “Simple measures like signage or a single flow traffic light system could be put in place in the meantime. We have campaigned on this for the past 10 years and have not seen a single safety measure put in place in that time. We are urging the council to meet with us and agree a plan of action that will be carried out in the short term.”