A KEY section of the N71 between Glengarriff and Kenmare is to be closed to all traffic for works to be carried out on the Caha Tunnel.
The closure will mean that commuters who travel this busy road – which is the main artery in the south west between Kerry and Cork – have two options: a detour of 85km via Castletownbere, or 209km via Macroom.
Kerry County Council plans to close the road for five days at the beginning of September – a decision which has caused major concern for the business communities in both Glengarriff and Kenmare.
Surveys carried out earlier this year identified evidence of loose or hollow rock in the tunnel at a number of locations, requiring remedial action.
It is proposed to close the road to traffic between Monday, September 3rd and Friday September 7th to allow for these essential works to be carried out.
At a packed public meeting in Kenmare this week, organised by residents and business representatives from Glengarriff and Kenmare, the opposition to the starting date for the Council’s plan, and the proposed detours that will be put in place when the tunnel is closed for repairs, were highlighted.
‘This is a very busy time of the year for us and we have a lot of buses due to come to us from Kenmare during the week the Council plans on closing the road,’ Brendan O’Sullivan of the Harbour Queen Ferries company in Glengarriff told The Southern Star .
‘The proposed detours are not going to work for businesses that rely on tourists and buses or indeed if there is an emergency and someone needs to get to Bantry hospital in a hurry,’ he said.
With the Caha Tunnel closed, the available detours will mean traffic travelling from Glengarriff to Kenmare will have to go south as far as Castletownbere on the Beara peninsula – a journey of 85kms each way.
But even worse – for traffic from Bantry, where many people commute to and from jobs in the Kenmare area each day, the only routes open will either be via Macroom, a round trip journey of a whopping 209km, or via the local road, which is not suitable for heavy traffic, the R569 to Kilgarvan, and then on to Kenmare.
Farmers from the Bantry side of the road regulary use this route to take animals to the Kenmare mart.
‘Cork County Council is also planning to carry out road resurfacing work on the N71 outside Glengarriff, which will also mean road closures on the Cork side of the Caha Tunnel,’ Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said.
Cllr Collins also attended the meeting in Kenmare. ‘We need to ensure that these works are carried out, but we also need to ensure that local residents and business owners are facilitated as well,’ he added. Cllr Collins said the Co Cork N71 roadworks could take up to four weeks.
Full details of the proposed Caha pass closure are now available on the Kerry County Council website at www.kerrycoco.ie