Certain to garner much use, both locally and from a tourism perspective, construction of the bridge which will cross the River Shannon as the National Cycleway project progresses, is due to culminate in June 2023.
Local elected representatives and Council executive members were informed of the latest developments pertaining to the project by Michael Kelly, Senior Engineer, Westmeath County Council, at the most recent meeting of the Athlone-Moate Municipal District.
Addressing the Chamber, Mr Kelly noted that tender submissions for Stage 1 of the construction from the White Gates to Athlone Marina were received in mid September with works presently underway for a six month duration.
The following stage of construction from Athlone Marina to Athlone Castle will commence construction in June 2021 with a two year timeframe to its formal culmination.
Detailing the overriding strategy of Stage 2 of the project which will see the completed bridge cross a river expanse of 100 metres from a landing point at Athlone Marina on the East Bank to its access point at Luan Gallery on the West Bank, Councillors were informed that the construction when completed would be safe and functional affording timeless elegance and in harmony with its immediate surroundings.
“The bridge will be a worthy addition to the civic life within Athlone,” Mr Kelly asserted.
A focal point of the realised construction will be the central location on the bridge where east meets west and those utilising the cycleway will cross provincial boundaries.
“The crossing of provincial boundaries will be visually articulated on the bridge and will a spot for much camera activity in the times to come,” Mr Kelly added.
Noting that the landing points at each end of the bridge would allow for ease of movement of personnel on and off the amenity, Mr Kelly stated that the expected start date for the construction of the super structure across the river was August 2022 with a culmination date for this stage of project being June 2023.
Impressed by the presentation, Cllr. Frankie Keena noted that the bridge, when constructed, would be a “welcome and exciting” addition to the town’s ongoing development.
“This bridge will be an amazing structure when completed, affording a vista and numerous photograph opportunities for locals and tourists alike as they cross embankments,” Cllr. Keena said.
Cllr. Keena was assured that funding was in place for the completion of Stage 1 of the project, with confidence that finance will be realised for completion of Stage 2 of the construction.
Green Party Councillor, Louise Heavin, commended the design of the bridge noting that the timeline for construction culmination was “achievable”.
Both Fine Gael Councillors, John Dolan and Tom Farrell further lauded the “impressive design” of the bridge, affording questions with regard to the disruption that will be caused to both Luan Gallery and the Radisson Blu Hotel while construction was ongoing. Cllr. Farrell also asserted the need to have poles erected on the bridge bearing the provincial flags.
Addressing their concerns, Mr Kelly stated that while there would be impact on both businesses, the Luan Gallery and Radisson Blu Hotel were very much in favour of the construction proceeding.
Questioning the lighting to adorn the complete construction, Town Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, noted the need to illuminate the relevant infrastructure in close proximity to the bridge and further queried the location chosen for both landing points.
In response, Mr Kelly stated that a suitable suite of lights would be selected to illuminate the bridge to add to its appeal when construction concludes.
“We commenced our route selection process in 2012 and while a crossing from Hanley’s cash and carry to Athlone Boat Club was initially mooted, it was decided that the particular beauty of this selected point of crossing must not be overlooked,” Mr Kelly concluded.