The Springfield Tunnel, which had been closed to facilitate the construction of the Mullingar Sewerage Improvement Scheme, was reopened this week in the presence of councillors and members of the local community.
Speaking at the ceremony, chair of the Mullingar Area Committee, Cllr Detty Cornally, said the re-opening of the tunnel, which is now wider and well lit, adds considerably to the convenience of members of the local community.
As part of the Mullingar Sewerage Improvement Scheme, a 1,200mm diameter interceptor sewer was laid beneath the Royal Canal at Springfield. Westmeath County Council took advantage of this work to improve pedestrian access and to alleviate the flooding problem. Two culverts were constructed, 3 metres wide by 2.4 metres high, one on top of the other, across the width of the canal. The lower culvert is for the river Brosna, and the upper for pedestrian traffic, and the original tunnel was sealed. A reinforced concrete aqueduct carries the canal across the culverts, which has been dressed in stone for aesthetic reasons.
The additional cost of constructing the two culverts and the aqueduct was approximately €850,000, and was carried out by Pierse Contracting.
The original pedestrian tunnel under the Royal Canal at Springfield in Mullingar was a stone arch constructed in the 19th century. It accommodated a sewer encased in concrete, and the river Brosna flowed through a culvert underneath the tunnel.
This was somewhat restrictive because of the presence of the sewer, and the culvert was prone to backing up the river in times of heavy rainfall, leading to flooding. It was not originally open to the public.
In the 1950s, new housing on the north side of the canal led to a need for access to the town centre. James Raleigh, the waterworks engineer at the time, came up with the idea of opening the tunnel to the public. James was the grandfather of the sitting cathaoirleach of the town council, Ruth Illingworth.