Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD has today turned the sod for the new Killaloe Bypass, Shannon Bridge Crossing and R494 Improvement Scheme.
The project will provide a western bypass around Killaloe, a new bridge crossing of the River Shannon and an upgrade of the existing R494 regional road from Ballina to Birdhill.
The entire scheme is over 6km in length and will cross the River Shannon approximately 1km downstream of the existing Killaloe Bridge.
The Project Team, led by Clare County Council and consisting of Tipperary County Council, the Department of Transport and scheme consultants, RPS Consulting Engineers, have been progressing the delivery of this significant piece of infrastructure for the Mid-West region over the past number of years.
Minister Ryan approved the award of contract for the project in December 2021 with contractors John Sisk & Son appointed earlier this year, with the works expected to take up to three years to complete.
The scheme consists of three sections as follows:
Killaloe Bypass: This part of the scheme aims to create a western bypass around the town of Killaloe which will connect the R463 to the north of the town with the proposed Shannon Bridge Crossing section and R463 to the south of the town.
Shannon Bridge Crossing: This section of the scheme will cross the River Shannon approximately 1km south of the existing Killaloe Bridge and will connect the proposed Killaloe Bypass with the R494 at a new roundabout at Roolagh.
R494 Upgrade: This section will involve widening, regrading and local realignment of the R494 from the aforementioned new roundabout at Roolagh to its junction with the R445 (former N7) north of Birdhill.
Speaking in Killaloe, Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan TD, said: “I am very pleased to be here today to turn the sod on what is a major infrastructural project of strategic importance to the Mid-West region. The scheme when complete is set to have many benefits, including safer roads and less town centre congestion, smarter travel with the delivery of dedicated pedestrian and cycle network along the entire scheme, safer access to public transport, and the promotion of safe walking and cycling to work, schools and to both town centres.”
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Tony O’Brien, said: “This is a momentous day for Killaloe and Ballina, for the counties of Clare and Tipperary, and for the entire Mid-West region. There has been a huge amount of work done going back many years to advance the project to this point, and I would like to acknowledge the work of all those who have contributed to its progress. As Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council and an Elected Member of the Killaloe Municipal District, it gives me great encouragement for the future development of the area to see construction get underway.”
Cathaoirleach of Tipperary County Council, Cllr Roger Kennedy, said: “This event today is a tribute to the tremendous cooperation between Clare and Tipperary County Councils over the last 15 years since the project was first mooted. The project is a unique opportunity to open up further East Clare and North West Tipperary to international and national tourism. It really complements the investment in the Lough Derg region as a major attraction in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.”
Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council, said: “I am delighted to see the sod being turned on this vital infrastructural project by the Minister, as the inadequacy of the existing route has been recognised for many years. With our colleagues in Tipperary County Council we have exciting plans for the linked settlements of Killaloe and Ballina, as outlined in the Killaloe-Ballina Town Enhancement and Mobility Plan, and this infrastructural project is a major piece of the jigsaw for the future development and enhancement of the towns. This is a wonderful place to live, work and visit, and the Killaloe Bypass, Shannon Bridge Crossing and R494 Improvement Scheme will enhance the area as a location for residents, businesses and tourists. I would like to commend the Project Team and I look forward to the completion of the project.”
Joe MacGrath, Chief Executive, Tipperary County Council, stated: “The twin towns of Killaloe and Ballina will be finally rid of traffic congestion and they will be able to develop together as a stunning location to live in or visit on the River Shannon.”
Clare County Council’s Director of Physical Development, Carmel Kirby, said that journey time savings, improved accessibility and connectivity, as well as many other environmental, tourism and health benefits will accrue from the new scheme: “These benefits include enhanced safety measures along the R494, pedestrian and cycle facilities throughout the scheme including facilitation of the Limerick to Scarriff Greenway/Blueway, reduction in carbon levels in both towns as well as many other active travel opportunities.”
Senior Engineer in Clare County Council’s Project Management Office, Seán Lenihan, said: “It is great to finally get moving on this key piece of infrastructure. It has been a long time coming and has not been without its challenges. We are looking forward now to its completion and are delighted to be working with very capable consultants in RPS and contractors in John Sisk and Son. As in all major capital works, there will be disturbance and disruption during construction. This is unavoidable but will be monitored, mitigated and kept to an absolute minimum. We ask for the community’s patience and understanding in this regard and believe that the longer-term benefits will far outweigh the shorter-term pain.”
Today’s sod turning followed the formal contract signing for the Killaloe Bypass, Shannon Bridge Crossing and R494 Improvement Scheme between Clare County Council and Sisk, and John O’Connor, Regional Director with Sisk, said: “Sisk is delighted to be selected as the main contractor for this vital new infrastructure improvement project which, when complete, will significantly upgrade the current roads network in both County Clare and County Tipperary. Sisk has considerable experience delivering similar schemes at this scale. We look forward to working with both Clare County Council and Tipperary County Council on this important project that will have a positive impact on the locality, improving connectivity through the provision of a western bypass of Killaloe/Ballina, a new bridge crossing of the River Shannon and an upgrade of the existing R494 regional road from Ballina to the R445 at Birdhill.”
A new plan for the future of the twin towns of Killaloe-Ballina was approved by Clare and Tipperary County Councils at their December 2021 meetings and took effect from January 2022.
The Killaloe-Ballina Town Enhancement and Mobility Plan aims to facilitate a co-ordinated approach to public realm enhancements within Killaloe in County Clare and Ballina in County Tipperary, providing a clear vision for Killaloe and Ballina as linked settlements.
The plan provides opportunities to capitalise on the towns’ assets to collectively expand the tourism product, attract increased visitor numbers and maximise local economic benefits.
The Killaloe Bypass, Shannon Bridge Crossing and R494 Improvement Scheme is central to future developments in the linked settlements.
Photos: Eamon Ward