The speculation about which route the new Galway city bypass will take comes to an end today. A briefing is due to take place this morning (Thursday ) which will detail the exact route chosen. The saga has been ongoing since January, when six potential routes for the new road were announced.
Nearly 500 letters to land and property owners have been sent out today. All persons who are identified as having land/property within the 150 metre corridor have received letters which outline how the route pertains to their land.
Many rumours about the chosen route have emerged over the past week but it has been confirmed that it comprises an amalgamation of various parts of the six routes which were on the table. The N6 Galway Transport Project, as it is now known, will incorporate two short underground tunnels on the eastern side of the city and a new bridge crossing the River Corrib.
The first tunnel will be located near the existing M6 motorway at Briarhill and the road will go overground again near Ballybrit racetrack’s stableyard.
One of the major fears expressed had been that the world renowned Galway Races would be affected and possibly cancelled for a year to facilitate construction of the bypass. Speaking to the Galway Advertiser, a representative from the N6 Transport Project said that was completely wrong.
“The races being stopped was never going to happen. There was no question of the races ever being in jeopardy. That would have a disastrous economic effect which would distort the whole planning process anyway. The new road affects race-course property but not the actual track itself.’’
There had been much opposition to the road by residents of the village of Menlo. The village and Menlo Castle are not being affected. There will be a second short tunnel on the approach to Lough Corrib around Terryland - this is needed due the presence of protected limestone pavements in the area. The road then goes overground again, crossing Lough Corrib via a new bridge and continues into NUI Galway owned lands in Dangan and on to Barna. The exact effect on NUIG is not yet known but it is believed the university’s playing pitches at Dangan will remain untouched.
However If planning permission is granted, between 40 and 50 homes will have to be knocked to facilitate the bypass. There will be demolitions needed in the Castlegar and Ballindooley areas and at a number of locations on the western side of the city, including Dangan. The estimated cost of the project now stands at €500 million.
‘The best alternative’
Planners and representatives from Arup Consulting Engineers firmly believe the route chosen is the one which best solves the congestion problems in Galway and will significantly reduce the journey time from west to east of the city. They are also confident the road complies with planning law and the European Habitats Directive. The directive was ultimately the reason the old Galway City Outer Bypass Route (GCOB ) failed to get planning. The western section of that road was refused permission due to its impacts on bog cotton in Tonobrokey. There were also problems on the east side due to issues with limestone pavements around Lough Corrib.
A public transport programme will be announced as a complementary project to accompany this new bypass route according to the N6 Transport Project representative. “In order for public transport to work effectively in Galway, additional road space is needed. The new expressway will allow us to dedicate existing road space to public transport.”
The next stage of the N6 Galway Transport Project now incorporates a detailed design phase, environmental impact statement (EIS ) preparation, and appropriate assessment preparation. There will also be a huge amount of engagement with landowners and the CPO (compulsory purchase order ) process will get under-way. Plans will then be submitted to An Bord Pleanála to allow the statutory process to begin. It is hoped this will happen in early 2016.
Local Fine Gael TD Sean Kyne has welcomed the conclusion of the first phase of the process. “It means we can move forward to the next phase of the overall process which will be the planning stage. Again, it is important that public consultation and interaction be prioritised.”
Deputy Kyne said he was confident that plans for the western section of the project from the N59 to Barna will be more akin to the Western Distributor Road in Knocknacarra rather than the M6 motorway. “I firmly believe there is scope for compromise to find the least intrusive route within the preferred corridor. It is vital that we strive to find a route that will have the least impact on homeowners and communities who have gone through a difficult number of months of uncertainty.”