City councillors have refused to give approval to works to lower the road under Lough Atalia Bridge until proper consultation is carried out with businesses and locals affected by the estimated two-month closure of this major route and the details of a full transport management plan are provided.
The Part VIII planning report for the proposed improvement measures on Lough Atalia Road, which include works estimated at €750,000 to provide safer movement of large vehicles under the bridge, a low 19th century protected structure, was brought before councillors at the Galway City Council meeting on Monday. However, a motion to defer the decision until a special meeting on April 28 was unanimously passed after councillors insisted that more consultation with businesses, residents, and emergency services needed to take place and elected members provided with more information such as a traffic management plan to minimise the disruption the road closure will cause during construction.
Director of services Billy Dunne said the work would involve the lowering of the road under Lough Atalia Bridge by 1.3m. Due to height restrictions, vehicles over 3.68m high must move towards the centre of the road in order to pass under the bridge, and over the years there have been many incidences of vehicles striking or becoming stuck under the bridge - a recent incident resulted in the road being closed for four days. The works will also consist of the regrading and realignment of the road running under Lough Atalia Bridge, the provision of appropriate pedestrian and cycling accommodation on each side of the roadway over a distance of 180m, and the provision of a storm water drainage network system.
Mr Dunne said added that if planning permission was granted it was envisaged the works would be completed in late October 2014.
Concern for businesses
Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) urged the council to do everything it could to reduce the time taken to carry out the works to at least one month, adding that 50 per cent of the city’s traffic flowed through this route and that the viability of the area was at stake. He said consultations should have taken place as businesses and 30 jobs would be affected.
Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), who expressed concern that no traffic management plan was put in front of elected members, said the council was being far too short-sighted by not exploring other options and called on Iarnrod Eireann and the Galway Harbour Company to contribute to the funding that was yet to be put in place.
“Any proposal to enhance the traffic flow in the city is to be welcome,” said Cllr Peter Keane (FF). However, he added: “Businesses will be decimated if these works proceed. Tonight is the night when we should have a traffic management plan, we have to give some comfort to the public on how the flow of traffic will be controlled.”
Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind) suggested the council consider options such as opening up Shop Street and Mainguard Street to traffic to help ease pressures on traffic flow, while Cllr Michael Crowe (FF) accused the council executive of treating elected members with lack of respect for not providing all the required information.
Mr Dunne said alternative routes explored were not deemed suitable. One option was to reduce the route under the bridge to a one-way system, but this would have increased the cost of the works to €1 million and time-scale to three and a half months.
He said various traffic management options were being investigated but detailed consultation normally takes place when a contractor has been appointed. “The fire at the docks was an emergency situation and road blocks were put in place to protect the public. This will be planned works. There will be a communications plan in place, all approaches will have signage, and diversion routes will be signposted,” said Mr Dunne.
City manager Brendan McGrath said the works would enable the Galway Harbour and port to win immediate contracts for business involving large freight and providing access to the N6 ring road. “The harbour development proposal envisages the road beneath the bridge being lowered. This Part VIII is a separate project which is being brought forward for a number of reasons, one being to facilitate a major development of the harbour. If the Part VIII does not proceed it will not be possible for the bridge to be used by the port and business will go elsewhere,” said Mr McGrath, who added that major contracts that could be affected include the importation of 69 wind turbines being into Galway in 2015.