Funding for the construction of a cycleway bridge across the River Shannon may hinge on developments in the dispute over the route the Greenway will take between Athlone and Galway.
That was the view expressed by councillors at this week’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District (May 2 ).
Farmers and land owners on the west side of the Shannon have been involved in a dispute with the Department of Transport regarding the proposed route for the Greenway.
Providing an update to councillors, director of services Barry Kehoe told the chamber that an environmental impact assessment on the cycleway bridge has now been completed and submitted to An Bord Pleanála for approval. He added that a six-week consultation process will soon commence, with a possible decision on the project before the end of this year.
However, the news did little to ease the concern of councillors. Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan welcomed the news that the plan is progressing, but said its success hinges on progress being made in extending the Greenway to Galway. He said it is unlikely that the Department will allocate funding for the bridge if a breakthrough cannot be made.
Mayor John Dolan said councillors had personally expressed the importance of extending the Greenway to Galway to Minister Shane Ross. He added that he attended a meeting in Loughrea some time ago where he met a farmer who would have his land dissected at three separate locations if the proposed route went ahead. Convincing these people will not be easy, he commented.
Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O’Rourke said a resolution is needed west of the Shannon or else “funding for a bridge in the sky will be a pie in the sky”. He added that it is very disappointing that talks have not progressed and suggested opening dialogue with the Department on the issue.
Mr Kehoe said he had no update on how attempts to extend to Greenway to Galway are developing. He said more direction is needed at national level.
He added that Minister Ross and his Department have been working hard to finalise a national plan for cycling and walkway routes, and that progress could be in the offing.