The provision of significant funding afforded to the construction of a new bridge to cross the River Shannon in the heart of Athlone is a welcome boost towards the continuance of the national cycleway route from Dublin to Galway.
A sum totalling €8.1 million has been allocated towards the costs entailed with construction of the new bridge, a project which will commence in June 2021 with a two year time span to its formal culmination.
Upon construction conclusion, the completed bridge will 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.
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.
Enhancing Tourism Product
Welcoming the funding allocation, Town Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, stated that the completed bridge construction will enhance the tourism product which Athlone has to offer.
“As each section of the ‘Old Rail Trail’ opened it further enhanced our greenway offering, particularly as the route came closer to the town. For Athlone to reap the tourism and economic benefits that the Greenway can and will bring, it is essential to bring the route into the heart of our town and across the river to the west side.
“During 2021 meaningful work will commence to construct the bridge over the River Shannon, with completion due for mid 2023. This section of the cycleway will become the central focus of the entire route and will mark the connection between the east and west sections of the greenway.
“The bridge will be a dedicated 100 metre long two span cycleway/pedestrian bridge over the largest and most important river in the country. The new bridge will be a hugely significant and very impressive addition to the fixed infrastructure in the centre of Athlone town.
“The funding announced this week will take care of the finance required to deliver the extension from the White Gates to the Marina and also the work required to commence the pedestrian bridge and the 2021 work associated with the bridge. Further funding allocations will be required into 2022 and 2023 to complete the route to the back of Athlone Castle,” Cllr. O’Rourke said.
The Town Mayor noted that the completed structure will be in keeping with its surroundings detailing the route users will take as they cross the river.
“The design of the bridge will be simple and elegant such that the expression of the structure does not take anything away from its surroundings. Cycleway and pedestrian users will arrive at the Radisson Blu Hotel to the east landing that connects into the hotel’s terrace. From the bridge deck, users will have views of the Athlone Railway Bridge and the masonry arch Custume Bridge.
“The steel bridge will then carry cyclists and pedestrians across the River Shannon to the west landing and next to the award winning Luan art gallery and St Peter & Paul’s Church. The route will then run along the Shannon’s western bank, directly underneath the bridge and through to Athlone Castle,” Cllr. O’Rourke concluded.
Echoing similar sentiments, Fine Gael Councillor, John Dolan, noted the positive impact which the realised bridge construction will afford Athlone.
‘I wholly welcome this significant funding allocation to allow for the construction of the new cycleway bridge across the Shannon in Athlone and I wish to commend Westmeath County Council Senior Engineer, Michael Kelly, and his team for their hard work in progressing to the project to this stage with 2023 being the target date for the culmination of the bridge’s construction.
“I have witnessed the success of the greenway and the vast potential which it will bring to Athlone and its environs, both from a tourism and a heath and wellbeing point of view. This investment will only add to that and shows the ongoing commitment of Government to invest in Athlone and the Midlands region.
“I will be making the case with Government for additional funding to enable Athlone avail of all the benefits which this greenway certainly has to offer,” Cllr. Dolan concluded.
Safe and Sustainable Environment
Cllr. Frankie Keena noted that the funding allocated would enable the delivery of a safe and sustainable environment for active travel within the local community, encouraging increased use of cycling and walking to places of work and schools and for leisure purposes.
“This national allocation is very much welcomed and the funding of €8.1m will be apportioned towards the various sections of route construction with €600,000 afforded to the extension of the greenway from the White Gates to the Marina, €6m towards the construction plus associated fees of the new greenway bridge across the River Shannon and the remainder to cover consultancy fees and associated works for the planning of the greenway to Galway,” Cllr. Keena asserted.
The €8.1m allocated towards the construction of the bridge across the River Shannon is part of a €63.5m funding package announced by Government for greenways in 2021.