Athlone’s new cycleway bridge, pictured on Monday of this week. Photo: Paul Molloy.

Cycleway bridge nearly finished but no confirmed opening date

The new cycleway bridge over the Shannon in Athlone is close to completion, but no date for its opening has been fixed just yet.

The council has also indicated that no decision will be made in the immediate future about an official name for the long-awaited €13 million river crossing.

Last September, the core structure of the bridge was lifted into place between the Radisson Blu Hotel on the east side of the town and the Luan Gallery on the west.

Council director of services Barry Kehoe indicated this week that the opening of the bridge was not far away, but he said the date when the public would get to use it was still unknown.

"We are working with our contractor, Jons Civil Engineering Ltd, to complete the bridge and open it for public use as soon as practicable," said Mr Kehoe.

"While we do not have an opening date, we will in all likelihood mark the occasion with an official event."

Michael Kelly, the Galway to Athlone cycleway project co-ordinator with Westmeath County Council, said the contractor was currently waiting on corium cladding materials, which were coming from Germany and needed to be installed on ramps leading up to the bridge.

"It's a shame that it's not open now, with the good weather, but at the moment it is still a construction site and until it's safe we can't open it," Mr Kelly said on Monday.

When asked about a name for the new bridge, the council said last autumn it would be considering the matter in consultation with the elected members over the months ahead. However, Mr Kehoe indicated this week that a decision about naming the development has been kicked to touch for now.

"It is our intention that the possible naming of the bridge would not be considered further at this time," he said.

"It is intended that this important milestone in the delivery of the Dublin-Galway greenway would be the primary focus, and that it would not be overshadowed by the selection of a name."

Councillors were first briefed on a plans to develop a cycleway bridge in Athlone ten years ago, in May 2013. The project was initially proposed for a location north of the white railway bridge, between Montree and the Golden Mile/Number One area.

A follow-up proposal in 2014 suggested that the bridge would be developed as a cantilevered or 'clip on' structure that would have been attached to the southern side of the Athlone town bridge.

The council then reverted to the standalone bridge option, settling on the route between the Radisson and the Luan Gallery later in 2014.

The cycleway bridge will be Athlone's fourth bridge over the Shannon, and the first to be developed since the bypass bridge, or relief road bridge, opened to traffic 32 years ago, in March 1991.

A new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the River Corrib, in Galway city, was officially opened to the public by Environment Minister Eamon Ryan and Mayor of Galway Clodagh Higgins on Friday last.

The bridge in Galway has also not been named as yet.