All of the nine elected members of Ballina Town Council were seriously critical of all the different route options for linking the N26 out of Foxford to the N5 on to Dublin that are under consideration at present, at the April meeting of the council on Wednesday night. They were so critical that Fine Gael councillor Mark Winters proposed that Ballina Town Council reject all of the route options, which was seconded by independent councillor Gerry Ginty. Paul Hyland, senior executive engineer in the Mayo national roads design office, gave the council a presentation on the various number of routes that are under consideration. The routes will link up with the N5 at any one of a number of potential junctions between Turlough and Bohola.
The major concerns of the councillors is that these routes will bring the connection to the main Dublin road so close to Castlebar and Westport it will leave Ballina isolated from potential tourist and industrial investment in the future. Fianna Fáil councillor Johnny O’Malley said: “This is the first time we are hearing of these route changes, I haven’t seen any mention of it before.” However Mr Hyland informed the meeting that his office held a public open day on the routes in Straide in December last year where 180 people attended and not one of the nine councillors from Ballina Town Council attended, despite all being invited.
The probability that road that breaks off from the N5 towards Foxford and Ballina will be a single lane carriageway, while the N5 into Castlebar and Westport is planned as a dual carriageway, also irked the members with Cllr O’Malley saying: “The standard of the road into the north of the county will be seen as substandard compared to the road going west into the county.” Cllr Ginty said: “I think someone has done a con-job on this, I said 30 years ago that this would be a road from Castlebar to Dublin not to Ballina and it’s what it is. It’s time people got off their backsides and see it’s about connectivity to Castlebar and nothing to do with Ballina.
Cllr Mark Winters also asked where the connectivity was to Galway in the proposed routes, as this was an issue that was included by An Bord Pleanála when it proposed extension of the N26 four years ago.
Mr Hyland told the meeting that studies showed the preferred route to Galway would be towards Castlebar, then on to its bypass and on to Balla and the N60 towards Claremorris and on to Galway. Cllr Winters along with Cllr O’Malley and Cllr Ginty all strenuously objected to this route as it would be adding at least 20 miles on to a journey to Galway, according to the councillors. The one part of the presentation that was welcomed by the members was the news that whatever route is chosen, part of the project includes the upgrading of the 8km of road from Foxford north to Mount Falcon outside Ballina.
Westport to Bohola stage moves forward another step
Ballina councillors voiced their outrage on the same day that news came through that the National Roads Authority had given Mayo County Council permission to submit the plans for the N5 Westport to Turlough road to An Bord Pleanála for approval. This proposed route would link up with the road north on towards Ballina at one of the number of routes currently under consideration, somewhere between Turlough and Bohola. Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed the news saying: “I welcome this progress on the proposed N5 Westport to Turlough Road Project. This road, if approved, would bring great benefits to the road-users of Mayo and I trust that the proposal will now be given due consideration by An Bord Pleanála.” Minister of State Michael Ring welcomed it saying: “I met with Fred Barry, CEO of the NRA, on a number of occasions in the recent months to stress to him the importance of this piece of infrastructure for Mayo. I am delighted to announce that the NRA is submitting plans for the new N5 road to An Bord Pleanála. This is the next important step in the campaign to get the new road developed.
“The new N5 would be vital for tourism, and for infrastructure in Mayo. In particular, it would provide vital traffic relief for Westport. I want to welcome this great progress.”