Trucks pictured on the Ballykeeran Bridge last month.

Ballykeeran Bridge to be upgraded, but not this year

There are plans for an overhaul of the busy Ballykeeran Bridge on the N55 in Athlone, but work on site is not expected to start until the latter part of next year or possibly even 2023.

The project would be a major piece of work which would involve the widening and realignment of the bridge, as well as the inclusion of new footpaths.

Damien Grennan, a senior engineer in Westmeath County Council's transportation section, said the local authority had been involved in a number of discussions with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in relation to the bridge.

"TII have a plan to widen and slightly realign that bridge. The timeframe for it is probably some way off, in that we have to go through planning processes and environmental processes.

"But it's there, and it's fairly high up on the TII's radar," said Mr Grennan.

He told the Westmeath Independent that the cost of the project would be "quite significant" but he didn't want to attach a figure to it at this stage.

"It's quite sizeable, because there are a number of existing services to be diverted as well. It's complex enough, but the plan is that it will ultimately resolve the issue that's there at the moment with the poor alignment. It will sort all that out."

The narrow bridge on the Athlone to Longford/Cavan route has long been an accident blackspot and was the scene of a number of road fatalities in years gone by.

In recent weeks we reported that the bridge had recently sustained damage when chunks of stone were knocked off walls on both sides of it, most likely due to impact from one or more trucks.

Pat Nally, the council's district engineer for the Athlone area, said the bridge would be examined and that if repairs were needed the local authority would be looking to have them carried out in the near future.