A MULTI-million euro bypass of Newcastle West may be back on the cards after Limerick County Council approved â‚¬10,000 in â€œseed fundingâ€ to â€œkick startâ€ the project.
Despite the rejection last month by An Bord Pleanala of plans to bypass Adare, the county council remains committed to tackling traffic bottlenecks on the N21. Officials now believe that a scaled-down bypass of Newcastle West, one of the worst traffic black spots in the county, may be more feasible in the near future, despite severe restrictions on capital funding.
However the decision to fund a constraints study for a southern distributor road in Newcastle West has met with a mixed response from local councillors, who fear that it may be another â€œappallingâ€ waste of taxpayer money.
At a local area meeting in Newcastle West last Thursday, councillors were asked to approve funding of â‚¬10,000 from the development fund for a constraints study by the Mid West Road Design Office in Dooradoyle.
Senior engineer Jimmy Condon said that the â€œseed fundingâ€ was important, as a new distributor road could have a major benefit for Newcastle West. â€œYou have to speculate to accumulate. I do think itâ€™s worth the gambleâ€.
However councillors Liam Galvin and Damien Riedy voiced their opposition to the plans, believing that the funds should be diverted to more pressing and immediate roads projects locally.
Cllr Galvin said that while a bypass is needed, he wanted officials to outline the plans before â‚¬10,000 is invested. He said that the experience of the Adare bypass, which saw an â€œappallingâ€ amount of money â€œburnedâ€ should be a cautionary tale. â€œI canâ€™t support [the plans] after whatâ€™s after happening in Adareâ€.
Cllr Riedy agreed, stating that the road â€œshould have been built during the boom timesâ€. He addedd that a bypass would be needed, but â€œthis is not the time for itâ€.
Cllr Michael Collins took the opposite stance, stating that a bypass would be â€œa huge piece of infrastructure that this town needs, and the sooner the better. This will kick it offâ€. Cllr Jerome Scanlan warned that it would be â€œa major mistakeâ€ to block the funding. â€œThis town needs a bypass. You have to break eggs at some point if you want to make an omeletteâ€, he said.
Mr Condon said that plans for a southern distributor road were agreed upon in Newcastle Westâ€™s most recent local area plan, â€œbut were never subjected to any kind of rigorous assessmentâ€. Mr Condon added that as the National Roads Authority (NRA) is looking at smaller, high-impact schemes in the absence of major capital funding, money for a distributor road could be available â€œearlier than expectedâ€.
The funding was approved after it was proposed and seconded by councillors Scanlan and Collins.