Roads and routes — and the way we’ll move a decade from now

Decisions, often the long awaited ones, come along like buses. You wait interminably wondering if one will ever arrive and then, out of the ether, come along several. It is an apt analogy this week because for the past while, Galway city and county has been awaiting decisions which have a lot to do, if not so much with buses, then with ways in which we are set to move around for the rest of this century.

The issue of the Galway City Ring Road or the Road Formerly Known As The Galway City Bypass and multiple other iterations over the last third of a century or more, has long been a bone of contention among those who travel to and from the city. To those who spend ten hours a week in their cars on the edge of town, it has been a manna from heaven, but one they wonder if they will ever enjoy.

But for others, there are considerations that deal with the heartstrings. This latest version took on more emotive considerations because it involves the demolition and or acquisition of many family homes, placing those homeowners in an unenviable position of not knowing where they stand, even if they wish to sell up and move out, although many did not want to see a lifetime’s work of love and care and safety fall prey to the yellow teeth of the bulldozer.

But this sags has much to run and run yet. There is no season finale.

The second route to be green-light-ed this week is the Athlone to Galway Cycleway — a project that promises to open up the wondrous heartland of the region to walkers, cyclists, runners and many others through the provision of a serviced safe route.

Like the Galway City Ring Road, there was much campaigning for certain routes to be taken and for other routes to be avoided, but in the end, it was route five which was chosen.

This will go from Athlone, through Cornafulla, close to Shannonbridge with a link to Ballinasloe and onwards then to Clonfert, Eyrecourt, Portumna, Woodford, Gort, Coole Park, Kinvara, Clarinbridge, Oranmore, and on into Galway through stunning boglands, scenic landscapes and vistas from River Shannon, Grand Canal to the Atlantic sea bringing heritage, history, culture and communities together.

It really is a magical route, and has been welcomed by those who have campaigned for it, as it will rejuvenate small towns and villages, will open up new opportunities of providing services for the hundreds of thousands who will use this. You just have to look at the greenway in Mayo to see the boost it has given small towns ands villages like Newport and Mulranny; and to look down to Waterford and Kerry where they too are enjoying the beneifts of a man-made tourist attraction that travails the most beautiful places in the region.

Towns like Athenry and Loughrea sadly are not on Route Five, but already local politicians are preparing an application, not to scupper the selection, but to positively campaign for adjoining routes to link their towns to the cycleway, so that those who use it have the option to visit Athenry and Loughrea. I for one, would not like to miss out on seeing the wonderful medieval and natural vistas that those towns enjoy, if I was to be a user on the new cycleway.

So, routes and roads, solutions and problems. It is not yet known where all of this will end. There is now an eight week standoff on the GCRR decision that will enable parties to prepare appeals to the green light by An Bord Pleanala. There are many hoops for this plan to yet jump through, and while this is going on, those who are behind it will continue to progress the design and acquisition side of a contract that will not see much change out of a billion euro.

Lockdown has shown us how great life can be without the life-shortening and health-damaging impacts of traffic congestion. Sitting in your car for ten hours a week on the edge of town is a wasted time, especially in the gas guzzlers that dominate the motor market. Maybe when this road is eventually built, the vehicles on it will be powered from a cleaner source and will not damage as much; maybe the aspect of remote working will bring life to our small towns and villages, and cities will become places which we visit for absolute necessity.

We have learned a lot from the last two years. We will learn much more from the next ten.


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