Planning hearing of proposed €600m ring road told that Galway's traffic congestion is 'stifling city living'

GALWAY city is buckling under the strain of chronic traffic congestion, which is stifling city living, and the economic growth of the wider region. he approval of a proposed new ring road costing EUR600m is "crucial to safeguard the future development of the city," a planning hearing has heard. The proposed 18km route - the N6 Galway City Ring Road - will run from Barna in the western region to the M6 on the east of the city. It will consist of 12km of dual carriageway and 6km of single lane and will require significant engineering works.

These include the development of a new bridge over the River Corrib, a tunnel structure beneath Lough Corrib, and a viaduct over a non-designated habitat in Menlo. Additional engineering interventions will include a second viaduct structure extending from the River Corrib Bridge over the NUIG sports campus, and the development of a tunnel the famous Galway racecourse. Construction of the proposed route will lead to the demolition of 44 houses and will impact a further 500 landowners and 11 businesses.

The report states that every effort was made to avoid property demolitions where possible. Still, avoidance of all properties was not possible, given the linear development of the city with housing along every road radiating out of the centre. In total, 296 submissions and objections have been made to An Bord Pleanala.

Over the next six weeks, the oral hearing will hear presentations from each party. Among those who have raised object is Boston Scientific- the biggest employer in Galway city -, NUIG, McHale Engineering, and the Connolly Motor Group. Homeowners who will be subject to compulsory purchase orders are expected to raise the issue of fair compensation, with many understood to be unhappy with the proposed amounts on offer.

An Bord Pleanala rejected a previously proposed bypass on environmental grounds. Planners then unveiled six possible routes before the 18km ring road was selected. Galway City Council say the project will take up to three years and will lead to a significant drop in journey times for motorists.

Project Manager Eileen McCarthy of engineering consultants Arup told the hearing that many of the objections they have received agree there is a need for a transport solution to the existing congestion. "They are not opposed in principle to the proposed road development, but object to the route chosen for various other reasons which are more specific to their issues and their location." Fianna Fail TD for Galway West Eamon O Cuiv said what Galway needs is "rapid public transport" and for less use of private cars.

"We need rapid public transport in Galway," he said. "We need walking and cycling. But to facilitate all of that, this detailed study - that was commissioned by the National Transport Authority and the local councils - says that you need a road to take traffic around the city."

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton TD for Galway West said she supported the project but will be making a submission, "highlighting the need for an integrated public transport system, an active travel network and fairness for householders affected."

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