Oral hearing into plans for €600m Galway ring road

More than 300 objections have been lodged with An Bord Pleanala in connection with a proposed EUR600 million ring road around Galway city which planners say is essential to ease chronic traffic congestion in the city.

The objections have come from a mix of individuals and groups and are linked to both the proposed development and the compulsory purchase of dozens of houses on the city’s outskirts which will have to be demolished if the bypass gets the green light.

The planning authority is to hold hearings into the 18km Galway Ring Road, which is set to loop around the north of the city from the east to the west, on Tuesday week (February 18th) with much of the focus likely to be on its impact on traffic congestion and pollution in the city which are both said to be damaging Galway’s reputation as a tourist destination.

It is not the first time local authorities in the area have tried to address the problem of traffic into and out of the city and a previous attempt to build an “outer” bypass of the city collapsed in 2013 after more then a decade in planning.

It was rejected by the European Court of Justice on environmental grounds but now the bypass plan is back, this time as the Galway City Ring Road, which envisages a route closer to the city centre.

Under the plan, houses will be demolished at Ballindooley beside the Headford Road in Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Bridge and viaduct

It involves a new bridge and viaduct over the river Corrib, two short tunnels on the city’s east side, the demolition of 44 houses and the acquisition of 10 more houses which would be seriously impacted by the development.

Traffic congestion on the current N6 is severe from the Coolagh roundabout on the approach to the city via a series of roundabouts and signal-controlled junctions through suburban Galway.

Traffic for the city centre and west Galway is also mixed with traffic for Briarhill and Ballybrit business parks. The current route continues to be severely congested crossing the Tuam Road and on to the Headford Road.

Traffic volumes at the start of the route are just under 30,000 vehicles a day and just under 25,000 vehicles a day between the Tuam and Headford roads.

Google Maps, which monitors traffic in real time, last week advised motorists to allow 44 minutes from the Coolagh Roundabout to the Headfort Road at peak times, a distance of just 6.5km.

Traffic volumes fall off rapidly once motorists cross the Corrib heading west and it is this “western region” that Galway city and council councils want the road to open to development.

The aims also include opening up existing road space for pedestrians and “smarter travel” such as cycleways, improving air quality in the city centre as well as access to University College Galway and NUIG.

‘Attractiveness’ and ‘opportunities’

In a statement, Galway County Council, which is developing the scheme on behalf of itself and Galway City Council, said “an efficient transport network which works for Galway city and environs will improve access to the western region, enhancing its attractiveness for inward investment and new employment opportunities and will contribute to enhanced competitiveness by reducing transport costs”.

The council said “delivery of the road will have a major positive impact on the quality of life of the thousands of people living in the area”. It said the road was “congruent with current transport policy and planning policy as set out in the various policy documents over the past number of years”.

The council’s project team will present the case for the proposed ring road at an oral hearing organised by An Bord Pleanala on February 18th.

The planning hearing will begin at the G Hotel at 10am.

It is expected to continue for several weeks.

At the same time, An Bord Pleanala will consider an application for the compulsory purchase of 54 homes which are required for the project to go ahead.

Environmental campaigner Peter Sweetman, who took a case against previous plans for the outer bypass of the city, has also objected to the current scheme.