Ongoing attempts to alleviate traffic issues in Athlone town centre have taken a new twist, after the council revealed a change in design for the long anticipated Railway Field link road.
The council unveiled the updated plans at the April meeting of Athlone Municipal District, which would see a link road run between St Vincent’s Hospital and the Crescent junction. The new plans were prepared following failed negotiations with CIE over the acquisition of the necessary lands for the road.
The original proposal, which was approved in 2004, was for a link road extending from the Coosan Point Road/ Station Road junction, directly through the CIE lands to the Crescent junction. However this plan ran into trouble after talks between the council and CIE broke down.
The Crescent junction was constructed in 2006, and while the council feels the layout “has worked satisfactorily”, it is “convoluted and complex in the absence of the full link to the Coosan Point Road”.
In contrast, the reviewed design reveals an entirely new layout, with an estimated cost of more than €5 million.
The junction design with the Coosan Point Road has been changed from a roundabout to traffic signals, and the proposed link road has moved from the western side of the CIE site to the east. This change reduces the amount of land required, and the CIE lands would not be severed - an issue that was a major stumbling block in the council’s talks with CIE.
This change also reduces the cost of the scheme, as the land required for the road’s construction is reduced, and there will be no need for the realignment of St Francis Terrace.
According to the council’s director of services Barry Kehoe, the new plan also provides for full cycle facilities, and improved safety for both pedestrians and cyclists.
The council is currently preparing Part 8 planning documentation for the new layout. Once this is in place, the council can go back to the Department of Transport to seek funding for the project.
In advance of this, they plan to initiate new discussions with CIE regarding the land required to construct the new scheme, and the works required on CIE lands to facilitate the continued operation of the bus garage.
However Mr Kehoe said he is confident that CIE will be more receptive to the new scheme.