N55 road ‘design modifications’ under investigation

Photo: The N55 emerging preferred corridor is in orange.

“Some design modifications are being investigated” as part of the route selection process for the new N55 road from Athlone to Ballymahon prior to the announcement of a Preferred Route Corridor later this year.

The latest update emerged in a management report documents circulated to councillors before the latest meeting of Westmeath County Council which indicated that the changes are being examined as part of a review of the latest public consultation for the contentious project.

“As part of this process further individual landowner discussions have taken place and are ongoing,” it added. “The completion of the Option Selection Report and a decision on the Preferred Route Corridor will be made once this work is complete,” the council update from July 20 stated.

The next step in the process, the announcement of the final Preferred Route Corridor (PRC) is expected sometime later this year.

Speaking to the Westmeath Independent on Friday last, Cllr Tom Farrell said in his opinion the PRC announcement will be later than previously thought, probably in the late part of the year to facilitate further investigations.

This latest update is the first in many months on the contentious road project which has attracted major local opposition.

Just prior to the election in February, the N55 Steering Committee reiterated their concerns over the Emerging Preferred Route Corridor (EPRC) for the new N55 road announced last summer, maintaining “it is not the most suitable route and is not in the best interest of the communities in which the road is intended to serve.”

The group, representing over 400 residents, claimed they will be “adversely affected” by the new preferred route, which starts at Cornamaddy roundabout, bypasses the villages of Ballykeeran, Tubberclair, Glasson, and Tang, and incorporates the parts of the existing route, before joining up with the N55 just south of Ballymahon. Among their concerns were congestion in Cornamaddy, while they also said a number of homes will be demolished if the plan moves forward and others will be stranded between the old road and the new realigned route.

Back in April of 2018, the process first started with five initial route options and six other links. That was later refined down in October of that year to six end-to-end options, and a final route was expected to be chosen by March, however, that was held up due to archaeological issues as well as difficulties sourcing consulting engineers for this type of project.

The Emerging Preferred Corridor (EPRC) was finally announced in July to a mixed reaction from locals.

At least two families living along the chosen route for the controversial realignment of the N55 road from Athlone to Ballymahon are facing relocation, while a number of farmers will see their farms dissected as part of the planned road, it's previously emerged. A timeframe for the road project to come to fruition was estimated at anything between eight and thirteen years by engineers.

Funding is only available for the finalisation of the route selection process, and the council will then have to approach Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) for funding in order to be able to move to the preliminary design phase.

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