I had intended to write this week of a local man who in the 1940’s and throughout the following two decades proved himself to be one of the most vocal public representatives of his time. However, my plans have to be laid aside for the time being to enable me to highlight the recent announcement concerning the proposed new road linking Dublin and Waterford. The public consultation process which must now accompany any proposal for major road works in this country commenced a few weeks ago and it was Athy’s turn last week.
We have until Friday, 15th June to contact the National Road Authority and let the know our views in relation to the various routes suggested for the proposed Dublin to Waterford dual carriageway and motorway. Here in Athy we are specifically concerned with the route options for the second section of the new roadway, stretching from midway between Kilcullen and Athy and extending downwards to within a mile or so of Carlow town.
The National Road Authority undertook a study following the publication of the National Development Plan for 2000/2006, which Plan identified the need for a reliable road transport system, the need for better access between the regions and the necessity to reduce fatalities and injuries resulting from road traffic accidents. The National Road Authority study concluded that the new road between Kilcullen and Waterford should be located so as to best serve Kildare, Carlow, Laois, Kilkenny and adjacent counties. It also recognised that the new road should separate long distance traffic from other road users and commented that the provision of a dual carriageway or a motorway with limited access points offered the best guarantee of greater road safety. At the same time the National Road Authority acknowledged that the new roadway should also bring with it economic and environmental advantages for the areas which it is proposed to serve.
For the purposes of the public consultation process which is now in operation the full length of the new road from Kilcullen (where it will link with the existing motorway) to the city of Waterford has been subdivided into seven sections, each inter-linked and showing within each of those sections a number of different route options. For instances on the first section taking in Kilcullen, Ballitore and Moone, there are no less than five route options set out on the map prepared by the National Road Authority. The second section covering Athy and Castledermot also has five route options and our immediate concern is in relation to these two sections of the proposed roadway.
The issue facing the people of Athy is whether the new roadway should be brought close to the town, thereby allowing us to gain some advantage from its proximity, or alternatively whether the road should be kept well away from Athy. Common sense decrees that the townspeople of Athy should fight hard to bring the new road as near as possible to their town. Of the five route options the one most likely to bring maximum advantage to Athy is route B1. This starts east of Ardscull and passes south of Athy and crosses the River Barrow approximately 2 kilometres from the town centre. It then turns south and follows the Barrow Valley, passing Carlow on the west side of that town. None of the other four route options could possibly provide the range of benefits which are likely to flow from having the new roadway passing within 2 kilometres of the centre of Athy. The future development of Athy’s limited industrial base depends on the opening up of lands serviced by roads as will happen with this road project. Bringing the road as close as 2 kilometres to the town centre, coupled with an additional spur from it onto the Kilkenny road would provide an outer relief road to take away the through traffic, especially the heavy lorries, which presently clog up our main street. The environmental and safety benefits which would flow from this are incalculable as are the economic benefits to an area hit again recently by the closure of yet another factory.
Many locals have consistently campaigned for an outer relief road, recognising the long term advantages that would follow from such a development and here now is the possibility of committing the Government to a road development which would serve to revive the fortunes of Athy. An overview of the entire roadway from Kilcullen to Waterford shows that the towns of Athy, Carlow, Leighlinbridge, Kilkenny and Bennettsbridge are the towns most likely to benefit. Kilkenny and Carlow, two major centres of development, have achieved their economic success on the backs of being county towns. The new roadway is needed insofar as they are concerned to facilitate traffic movement and not, as in smaller centres such as Athy, to create not only the road infrastructure, but also development opportunities. The latter requires the new road to be brought as near to the town of Athy as the 2 kilometres projected in option B1 because in doing so the land served by the road would give a much needed boost to our local economy. In the case of Athy a roadway close to the town centre would have the additional benefit of allowing an outer relief road option to be implemented without too much difficulty.
Simple put, we need a roadway to come as near as possible to the centre of Athy for it offers the possibility of an economic lifeline for a town pushed for too long to the rear of every queue which ever formed at the doorsteps of successive Irish Governments. If we do not seize this opportunity to put our case with vigour and with justifiable concern for our town’s future, then Athy’s future will be further threatened.
Athy’s Urban Development Group which has been spearheading the demand for an Outer Relief Road will hold a public meeting in the Dominican Hall on Tuesday, 12th June next at 8.00pm to press Athy’s claim for the new roadway on route option B1. Everyone and anyone interested in the National Road Authority’s plans for the new Dublin/Waterford road should come along to that meeting.