A claim that the €550 million Gort to Tuam motorway is to become a ‘ghost motorway‘ has been blasted by local representatives.
An analysis of projected traffic volumes on the 57km route last week indicated that the public private partnership project could become the worst performing motorway in the country.
The four lane non-tolled road is to create 450 jobs during construction and will bypass Tuam, Ardrahan, Claregalway, Kilcolgan, Clarinbridge and Gort. The sod was turned on the project back in May and the first traffic is expected along the route in 2018.
The road will be capable of handling 40,000 to 50,000 vehicles per day, but an analysis of traffic projections by The Irish Times last week indicated that the motorway will be operating at less than a quarter of it capacity in 2030, with James Nix of An Taisce also suggesting that the the existing N18 between Oranmore and Claregalway was “more than adequate” to cater for traffic and that “taxpayers have been made to borrow—and repay—€250 million needlessly”.
Hitting out at these comments, Councillor Frank Kearney said, “I would like to know what planet does Mr Nix live on and, while I appreciate the great work that has been carried out on the Oranmore to Claregalway road, how often did he have to sit on gridlock in Claregalway or Clarinbridge?”
Cllr Kearney said that to say the motorway project is a waste of taxpayers’ money is an “insult” to the people who for years have had to travel from Donegal to Kerry and suffer hours of tailbacks in many of the areas that are proposed to be bypassed under the new stretch of motorway.
“Claregalway has been the worst bottleneck in the country for years and a bypass for the village has been ruled out pending the construction of this necessary infrastructure,” said Cllr Kearney. He said Mr Nix and others were asking the people in the towns and villages of Tuam, Claregalway, Oranmore, Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan, Ardrahan and Labane to continue to suffer traffic congestion and a poor quality of life.
While the projected traffic levels for the route might be below the M9 to Waterford and the M3 through Co Meath, both of which carry 20,000 vehicles per day, Cllr Kearney asked, “Does that mean that the people in the West of Ireland should have less entitlements than those in the south east or Meath?”
“May Day in 1654 might have been the date set by Cromwell when he ruled Connacht to be just a little better than Hell and for those of us west of the Shannon, little has changed in the attitude of some who have benefitted on the eastern seaboards,” he said.
Paying tribute to the Government for prioritising the project, he said he was hopeful it would be equally forceful in delivering the Galway outer city bypass in the coming years, and that An Taisce would not once again find themselves “standing in the way of improving the hearts of our towns and cities so that people can live in comfort”.
“It is time that the west of Ireland received a proper infrastructure and that the people of the west were treated on level playing pitch as the rest of the country. It’s time to put Cromwell’s thinking behind us,” said Cllr Kearney.
FF Galway East TD Colm Keaveney has also criticised the “attempted undermining” of the motorway. He said the motorway would have an expected life-span of thirty years and its benefits need to be understood across that time-scale.
He said it was essential to the economic development of the West of Ireland in general and to East Galway in particular, improving as it did the interconnectivity of the region to Dublin and to Shannon.
“The benefits of the motorway extend beyond the merely economic but also, and more importantly, include improvements to road safety and a reduction in fatalities. The motorway will have quality of life benefits for commuters and for those living in towns and villages currently congested with traffic,” he said.
A requested comment from An Taisce was not forthcoming at time of publishing.