As concerns pertaining to the realignment of the N55 from Athlone to Ballymahon persist, members of a steering committee which represents up to four hundred residents who are adversely effected by the new route met with Westmeath County Council roads department to detail their ongoing concerns with the Emerging Preferred Route Corridor (EPRC ) which has been selected and the final Preferred Route Corridor (PRC ) which will result from phase two of the project.
The preferred route commences at Cornamaddy roundabout and will bypass the villages of Ballykeeran, Tubberclair, Glasson and Tang, as well as incorporating parts of the existing route, before it links with the N55 just south of Ballymahon.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Mark Keena, Chairperson of the N55 Steering Committee, stressed that the route is not in the best interest of the communites it is intended to serve.
“During this meeting the committee raised concerns that the (EPRC ) is not the most suitable route and is not in the best interest of the communities in which the road is intended to serve. The EPRC starts at Cornamaddy roundabout which is heavily congested and this proposed road will significantly add to the already heavy traffic at this location. Residents, schools and businesses should be very concerned with this development,” Mark stressed.
The Steering Committee Chairperson offered an alternative route solution to that of which is presently in the public domain.
“Our view point is that this route should link-up with the M4 further east of Athlone to avoid further adding to the already heavily congested area at Cornamaddy school. In addition, the EPRC finished South of Ballymahon and does not take into account the major junction with the Mullingar to Longford Road. Again, the Steering Committee believe that this proposed route should be located further east of Ballymahon and link-up with the existing N55 North of Ballymahon,” Mark remarked.
Further noting the major upheaval which the proposed route realignment will have on residents, business and the environment, Mark has called upon concerned locals to broach the issue with politicians as they canvass for votes prior to the General Election on February 8.
The committee has highlighted that a few homes are going to be demolished and numerous other homes islanded between the old road and the new road. Some residents will now have a regional road at the front of their homes and a national road behind their properties. This we believe is highly unacceptable in a rural setting and goes to demonstrate that the route as selected is not appropriate for the area.
“The route also disturbs peatlands in Waterstown bog, it dissects Waterstown Demesne from Glasson village and is very close to Lough Ree Special Protected Area (SPA ) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC ). The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has established an Interdepartmental Working Group to explore the potential of awarding Lough Ree the UNSESCO Biosphere designation. These issues all raise concerns that the proposed route as selected by Westmeath County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland is not the most suitable road location from a Social, Ecological and Environmental perspective.
“We would like to call on all concerned residents to remember this project during the ongoing election campaign and ensure to remind public representatives and those seeking a number one vote that this will be a major political issue during the next twelve months.
The committee are engaging with professionals to help analyse the impact of the selected route and have organised a public meeting on March 11 during which we will present in the pertinent reasons detailing why this proposed route is not the most suitable or appropriate allowing for the impact it will have on the local environment,” Mark concluded.