A bypass of Ballinrobe looks to be a long way away from happening - the elected members of the Claremorris-Swinford Municipal District were told this week.
The members were addressed by a number of engineers from Mayo County Council outlining the current status of any proposed bypass of the town at the meeting.
Head of Road for Mayo County Council, Paul Dolan, stated: "The Ballinrobe bypass was developed and then suspended in 2010, it is not in the national development plan. There was a route selected at that stage and it is still there.
"About three years ago we undertook a Ballinrobe traffic and transportation study which was to try in some way to alleviate some of the traffic difficulties in the town, by way of traffic lights, effectively, and also looking at pedestrian areas in the town.
"A part eight was approved for a set of lights at Staunton's Corner; we have now just submitted a report to TII looking for funding for those traffic lights
"We all acknowledge there are traffic delays on the N84 in Ballinrobe, in both directions, but particularly in the south bound direction coming into Ballinrobe from Castlebar at various times, particularly at peak times in the morning; and with that in mind, we submitted a minor works application to TII early last year for the bypass of Ballinrobe from the N84 Castlebar Road to the N84 Kilmaine Road.
"That minor works application is sitting with TII and from the National Roads Office perspective, no progress will be made on the scheme unless and until we get an allocation from TII to proceed with the bypass option.
"At this stage though, with it being such a long period since that bypass route was agreed, it goes back to a blank page in proceeding with a Ballinrobe bypass. It starts with what is called Phase Zero and basically all routes are looked at again moving forward.
"While we have a route on the map, what it comes to is, if we were successful in getting an allocation from TII, we go back to a blank page and start from scratch effectively.
"That is where we are with it, we will be hopeful we can get funding from TII to get the traffic lights at Staunton's corner installed next year; also, I suppose it would be of benefit if we could get the bus stops relocated from the centre of town to the location that were agreed as part of the Part Eight, that would eliminate some of the issues caused by buses stopping in locations that are not suitable at all, as far as I am concerned."
Paul Hyland from the council's National Roads Design Office, added: "In my opinion, if you had to start again at Phase Zero, you would have to do traffic studies, appraisals, a plethora of environmental studies to inform the route selection process.
"You would be looking to select a route within two years and thereafter, the big challenge would be to get planning for it, both a statutory process by part eight or Natura Impact Statement; and then whatever land was identified for the scheme, you would have to get approval to compulsorily purchase - there is challenges there you would have to go through.
"Once planing is achieved you can move on subject to TII funding with construction of the project, whether it would be built in its entirety or in phases; that would be something that could be considered at the time.
"If we were successful to get an allocation in 2022 - and we are getting no indication that we will, you are looking typically, with a fair wind, at five to seven years to construction; there is quite a lead-in to get a project from Phase Zero to what is Phase Seven closed out, that gives you the insight to a project like this. Until an allocation is made to our office from TII, nothing is happening."
Fianna Fáil councillor Damien Ryan said he was disappointed with the news, saying: "There is no good news in relation to the update from the engineers, it was raised at a meeting with TII this week too. Collectively, the councillors have signed up to the part eight in relation to the internal alleviation measures and we have no other option on that to be honest. It is a problem that is getting out of control. The connectivity to the M4 motorway and Ballinrobe being used as that link is an awful lot of the reason that the traffic problem in Ballinrobe has accelerated. It is not in the development plan and if it is not, it won't happen and politically, it has been left behind for many, many years."
He said they would have to press on with the suggested works in the centre of the town as outlined with the installation of traffic lights and moving the bus stops. But he also suggested that it should be looked at to develop a link road, rather than a full bypass if possible, to help the situation."
Fine Gael councillor Michael Burke said: "I am very disappointed to hear what I've heard. We have had false hopes over the past number of years - before, it was when finances become available, we will look at it very seriously, we were told by TII." He also backed up the call to drive forward with the planned works for next year.
Responding to the suggestion of a smaller link road, Mr Dolan said he did not think that was the best way to move forward, saying: "I acknowledge the provision of traffic lights and the removal of bus stops will help the situation but it's not going to fix it, and the only fix is a bypass; and I know there has been talk of not going back to Phase Zero and having a shorter link road, but no matter what we do, we go back to Phase Zero; it has to comply with the public spending code and if that scheme was to go to ABP and an oral hearing, you have to justify how we came up with a proposal. The right way, from my perspective, is to go through the planning process from Phase Zero from N84 to N84 and then see what funding can be allocated and if we can do it in sections - I don't see another way to do it from a TII perspective."