The cost of a new road to ease traffic congestion in Galway has been estimated at €500 million and that figure could rise to a massive €750 million if a route that uses tunnelling is chosen.
The N6 Galway City Transport Project is the new title of what was formerly known as the Galway City Outer Bypass. That road was refused planning permission in 2013 following a decision by the European Court of Justice. The court ruled that construction of the bypass would result in “lasting and irreparable loss of the whole or part of a priority natural habitat” in the County Galway area.
It is hoped that six new proposed routes for the road will be narrowed down to one by April following public consultation with affected parties, which is currently taking place. It is estimated that whatever route is chosen, between 50 and 130 houses will have to be demolished to make way for the road.
The scheme is being managed by the National Roads Project Office on behalf of both the Galway City and County Councils. A dedicated office staffed by the newly appointed ARUP Consulting Engineers has been established in Ballybrit. The local authorities along with ARUP have been working on the new proposed routes for more than a year. The six selected routes have been colour coded and the public is being invited to view them and their potential effects at two rounds of public consultation meetings in city hotels this week and next.
One event was on in the Westwood Hotel yesterday and will take place at the same venue again today [Thursday] from 2-8pm. Another round of consultations will take place in the Menlo Park Hotel next Tuesday and Wednesday, February 3 and 4, also from 2-8pm.
Mike Evans from ARUP is the project director, he says they are hoping for plenty of interaction. “It is important that members of the public outline the issues they have and what is important to them. They can tell us about things which we haven’t maybe seen yet. Another opinion can always be helpful when you are trying to solve a problem. Clearly Galway has a transportation problem and leaving the city the way it is, is not going to solve it.’’
Some 300 letters have been sent to homeowners outlining their homes are at risk of being demolished to facilitate the road. Mike Evans says he knows it is crucial for these people that the selection of one preferred route takes place, as soon as possible. “We have a group of people who are very severly affected - those that may be at risk of having their house knocked down. This is a hugely emotive issue and it’s extremely important we bring clarity to it as soon as possible, move this on, and and pick one route. It is our plan to display a preferred option by April.’’
Speaking about the habitats issue, which is effectively the rock upon which the last proposed route perished, Mr Evans says an enormous number of ecological surveys have been undertaken on special areas of conservation [SAC] to get a better handle of the problem. “Galway is in a fantastic location, it’s got the sea, Galway Bay, and Lough Corrib, you couldn’t find a better place to put a city, but because of that, there are these protected habitats. In particular, limestone pavements are one of the qualifying interests in Lough Corrib SAC and that’s where the previous scheme ran into difficulty. If you want to affect this habitat, you can only do so if you can prove there is no alternative, or for reasons of overriding national interest, which are public safety and human health, so the legislation is there to protect it. Due to the surveying work, we now have a very good knowledge of the species and habitats in the area. It allows us to prepare routes that have the least possible impact on those habitats.’’
The previous city outer bypass route went very far north and the idea was to move away from housing and development. One of the new proposed options [Green route] is nearest to it but obviously avoids the SAC. Project manager, Eileen McCarthy of ARUP says what the engineering company wants to get across is that the other proposed routes are very different. “We have options now which travel through the city, we feel there has been some dis-engagement from those living in the city who think they may not be affected, as the road will never come near them, but that will possibly not be the case now. We want people to come to the consultation and I would urge them to engage with us.’’
More information is available on www.n6galwaycity.ie or through the ARUP project office on 091 - 460675.