Senator Sean Kyne has told the resumed An Bord Pleanála Oral Hearing on the N6 Galway City Ring Road Project that is impossible to thread a new, high quality road between the city and Lough Corrib without creating a major impact on homes and businesses.
Sen Kyne said that he has always been in favour of this project because he know what it means to people who live in the city, the people of Connemara and its implications for the potential growth of our regional capital.
"We’ve spent the past three decades talking about how best to connect west and east Galway. Everyone recognises that there are fundamental challenges in connectivity in the city and that there is an urgent need to solve these problems.
"The Galway City Outer Bypass was put forward and eventually failed - not because people thought it was a bad idea but because it was seen to have environmental impacts which could not be mitigated.
"We now have the Galway City Ring Road project which I fully support. I know it will cause huge upset and worry to many who will lose their homes if it goes ahead in its present form. I sympathise and am sorry for this. However, it is impossible to thread a new, high quality road between the city and Lough Corrib without creating a major impact on homes and businesses.
"The justification for the project is, I believe, self-evident. We have large numbers of vehicles crossing east-west and west-east daily. The need for another river crossing is compelling and only the Recession, post Celtic-Tiger era, and the Covid-19 pandemic have made the traffic situation reasonably bearable over the last decade - and I emphasise reasonably. At peak times traffic is a nightmare and a vehicle breaking down or a water main bursting in a particular location can cause the entire city to come to a standstill.
"I have grave concerns about the future economic life of Connemara and indeed the city without the Ring Road. Connectivity is crucial - parts of Connemara are approximately one hour from Galway City, never mind Dublin. If the region is going to sustain itself it needs easy and quick access to the rest of the country including ports and airports. As former Minister for the Gaeltacht, I know how challenging it is to attract investment into the region, how time and infrastructure are crucial. Arriving at Dublin, Shannon or Ireland West airports and travelling to Galway only to be stuck in traffic is not going to encourage investment in either the city or Connemara.
"All public representatives know of the traffic and transport problems at Parkmore Industrial Estate where it can take hours to exit the carpark, let alone travel home. It is unacceptable that people spend hours going to and from work on top of the normal working day. It is not good for families or communities and has a negative impact on a person’s physical and mental health.
"A region like the West has numerous tourist attractions. Galway City is known internationally for its attractions, its nightlife and its vitality. Connemara and the Aran Islands, with the national park, Lough Corrib, Kylemore Abbey, many beaches and other features, along with communities like Ballconneely, Clifden and Roundstone, all draw substantial numbers of tourists - both international and domestic. The Wild Atlantic Way has increased traffic to Galway and its continued success will be hampered by congestion without improved road and other infrastructure.
"The Ring Road is an intrinsic part of the Galway Transport Strategy and is pivotal to its implementation. I full support the Galway Transport Strategy. We have a medieval city with narrow, winding streets which means that street space needs to be properly and sensibly used. We must make best use of what we have in the city centre. This means increased use of public transport, more walking and cycling. To do this we need to make better use of the Quincentenary Bridge which does not, at present, have scheduled bus services. We need to increase capacity on existing routes and the GCRR will enable us to do that. The present bus and cycling schemes are critically important in conjunction with the Ring Road.
"We have to create a more sustainable, people-friendly regional capital. The National Planning Framework envisages a population increase to about 140,000 people for the city. That would be an increase of approximately 50,000 people and the prospect of such an increase without a well-designed road around the city is unthinkable for the people of Galway. The city would grind to a halt. Galway is a major centre for healthcare with four major hospitals. It is a major centre for higher and further education and research with over 20,000 students.
"If Galway is to serve its people and the people of the region effectively into the future it needs the Galway City Ring Road as a basic building block of the infrastructure a regional capital requires. It will enable an effective system of public transport to be implemented and thus make the best use of the centre of the city as a place you can work, live and visit in comfort.
"The Ring Road is good for business and the economy. It is good for tourism and recreation. It is good for health and good for the environment of the city in terms of reducing congestion and pollution. It will improve access to services such as healthcare like the Emergency Department and other regionally-important services. Ultimately, it will allow for more balanced regional development and for the growth of Galway," he concluded.