A new junction on the N4 at The Downs is expected to be under construction by 2011, it was revealed this week. The junction, which will cost in the region of €8-€10 million, will allow four existing dangerous junctions along a five kilometre stretch of road to close permanently.
A presentation was made to local residents at The Downs yesterday, Thursday, and to councillors at Monday’s Westmeath County Council meeting, outlining the plans for the junction.
Five separate options were explored by the National Roads Design Office, which undertook engineering, environmental, and economic assessments of each before a preferred junction option was singled out.
This junction option is located east of the existing R156 Killucan Road junction and close to Flynn Feeds. All existing median openings and the current R156 junction would be closed, with access provided via a connector road to a new roundabout on the R156 east of The Downs.
The junctions at Genesis Gift Gallery and Flynn Feeds would be closed, with access on and off the N4 provided via the proposed new junction. The existing access from the westbound carriageway with the old N4, close to the Mullingar junction, will be closed, and the local access opposite the Roadhouse will also be closed and a connection made to the old N4.
This junction was chosen as it was identified as having the least ecological impact, as well as a positive impact on the community of The Downs, with improved air quality and reduced noise. Traffic levels through the community will also be significantly reduced, with the associated improvements in road safety.
The decision to construct a new junction came about as a result of the significant increase in traffic on the N4 in recent years, which meant that the existing junctions had become a safety concern, in particular the junction with the R156 Killucan Road. At present approximately 20,000 vehicles pass along this stretch of the N4 daily, a figure that is expected to grow to 28,000 by the year 2025. The Killucan road currently carries an average of 4,500 vehicles per day, and by 2025 this figure will have risen to 6,000.
Councillors at Monday’s meeting united in welcoming the plans for the new junction, in particular the role in improving safety for road users and the way in which local businesses were being accommodated as far as possible.
There was, however, some concern about the possible effect of the scheme on landowners and residents in the area, particularly farmers whose land would be purchased by Compulsory Purchase Order.
Responding, Ambrose Clarke of the National Roads Design Office, and consultant engineer with Jacobs, Stephen Kearns, assured councillors that 90 per cent of locals questioned agreed that the scheme was necessary and would welcome the new junction. They added that consultation was ongoing with all landowners to address any issues they may have.