Michelle Mulherin, Fine Gael TD for Mayo, says the route selection for the N26, N58 and N5 being proposed by Mayo County Council's National Roads Design Office will give a huge boost to business and tourism in Ballina and Castlebar.
Deputy Mulherin has described the plan to upgrade the N26 to national primary standard between Mount Falcon and Swinford and make major improvements to the N58 road through Straide, linking Ballina to Castlebar, as most impressive.
Deputy Mulherin was speaking after she attended the start of the public consultation process on the route selection for the N26, N58 and N5 in Straide Community Centre on Monday this week.
After viewing the plans in Straide and speaking with council road designers and engineers, Dep Mulherin said: “The plans reflect a massive vision to provide proper road connectivity for Ballina to the east with Dublin and Ireland West Airport Knock - and to the south with Castlebar and Westport and with Galway.”
She added: “A new proposal is the upgrade and realignment of the current road to national primary standard between Mount Falcon and Swinford, which would include a bypass of Foxford to the north east and a new bridge to address the major problems with the old existing sub-standard bridge at Cloongullaun and would make IWAK more accessible. The plan to upgrade the N58 road through Straide which is windy and unsatisfactory to travel right now will ensure proper connectivity with Castlebar. Interestingly, traffic studies and analysis show a quarter of all vehicles leaving Ballina in a day end up in Castlebar and the same is the case for Castlebar traffic which ends up in Ballina so there is already a lot of social and economic business between the two towns.
Dep Mulherin continued: "For future economic expansion and development, we have to see ourselves not as the two towns of Ballina and Castlebar in competition, so to speak, but as one commercial and tourism hub and region attracting investment accordingly and so the construction of a proper road between the two towns is vital which will also ensure connection with Westport under current plans. Ballina is the headquarters for rail freight in the region and the multi-nationals operating in Castlebar and Westport need proper road access to Ballina for this service, and the people of Ballina and North Mayo need proper access to Mayo General Hospital and other government agencies in Castlebar.
She concluded: “Every year since this Government came into power in February 2011 roads funding has been allocated, including €600,000 this year to find a new route for the N26 road out of Ballina to Swinford ever since An Bord Pleanala refused to sanction the previous plan in 2009. I am delighted that the process of selecting a route can be completed shortly and we can then move on to have the environmental assessment, archaeology and road designed which is the next step and for which I will continue to fight for funding from the National Roads Authority.”