Funding of almost €500,000 has been allocated to complete the stretch of Greenway from Garrycastle to the ‘White Gates’ on the Ballymahon Road crossing.
The €496,187 in funding was announced by the Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport, Shane Ross last Friday, July 1. The project will include new traffic lights to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross where the greenway intersects with the Ballymahon Road.
The allocation to Athlone is part of an overall package of funding servicing Greenway projects in Kildare, Meath, Longford, and Westmeath.
Minister Ross said: “Since my appointment as Minister, I have been particularly struck by the far-reaching benefits that greenways can bring to the localities in which they are situated as is evidenced by the success of the Great Western Greenway and other projects around the country.
“These benefits are not just confined to the economic realm from jobs created and sustained through the construction of the greenways to the spend on food, drink and accommodation by those using the greenways. They also extend to the health benefits, both physical and mental, of cycling and walking and to the environmental benefits from a reduction in emissions.”
“These projects build on the great success of the Old Rail Trail between Athlone and Mullingar and will provide the country with a long distance, multi-day, off-road cycling route that I’m sure will prove to be a great attraction for tourists, both foreign and local, and indeed anyone looking for a wonderful day out.”
Minister Ross added that he is confident the project can be finished by the end of 2016, but gave no assurances regarding the extension of the amenity to the west of the Shannon towards Galway where land owners continue to dispute the proposed route.
Independent Alliance Deputy, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, has welcomed the announcement of funding: “I am delighted to have been in a position to give this project the final push it needs to bring it to fruition,” he said. “There is great potential here which can be developed into a significant eco-tourist project with very little investment required. I am convinced that the Longford-Westmeath region can become Ireland’s leading standard for cycling tourism.”
At present the Athlone-Mullingar Greenway starts at Garrycastle and passes through scenic landscape via Moate, Streamstown, Castletown, and onto Grange south in Mullingar where it links with the recently constructed Royal Canal Greenway which extends to the Meath/Westmeath border