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Work on €280m Macroom bypass is moving ahead with impressive speed

February 11th, 2021 7:05 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Contractors working on the bypass put in place seven concrete beams for a bridge over the River Laney, which were each almost 50m long, and weighed 155 tonnes. They were the longest beams ever used on a bridge in Ireland or the UK.

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With 20% of this mammoth project already completed, the Macroom bypass is set to be one of the most important and strategic road infrastructures in the south west by its 2023 completion

WITH 18 road bridges, 24 accommodation structures and a number of culvert structures, the Macroom bypass project is engineering at its most spectacular.

The €280m task is led by Cork County Council and contractors Jons Civil Engineering and John Craddock JV.

As well as cutting travel time between Cork and Kerry, it will also give much-needed relief – not just to the people of Macroom who endure daily traffic congestion – but also to frustrated motorists and commuters.

The N22 Baile Bhuirne to Macroom will see the construction of a 22km dual carriageway constructed away from the existing N22 by-passing Macroom.

It will also by-pass the villages of Baile Mhic Íre and Baile Bhuirne, the infamous ‘Ballyvourney Bends’ and Macroom, and finish before the county bounds with Kerry. There isn’t, however, a specific timeline for the individual stages of the project.

According to Cork County Council, the road will be constructed through challenging terrain which varies from ‘hilly, remote land with rocky outcrops at the western end, to low lying pasture lands to the east of Macroom.’

The project started almost a year ago, and includes the construction of 130 structures including crossings of the Sullane, Laney, Foherish and Bohill rivers.

Just before Christmas a major logistical operation was put in place to transport seven pre-cast concrete beams from Banagher in Co Offaly.

Measuring 49.9 metres in length and each weighing 155 tonnes, these were the longest beams placed on a bridge structure in either Ireland or the UK, and were placed successfully over the River Laney.

It took four nights – between December 4th and 14th  and a garda escort – to transport the beams. Operators had a close call going through the Jack Lynch Tunnel because the beams had only 200mm height to spare. One of the bigger challenges they also faced was slowly reversing the beams into position with only inches to spare at the existing stone arch ‘New Bridge’ in Macroom.

And they’re not finished yet, with more steel beams from Portugal expected to be transported to the site in the coming months.

Cork County Council project liaison officer Jonathan Noonan said that they were delighted to have reached that significant milestone, especially having the longest concrete bridge beams as part of the largest road scheme in the country, achieved during a global pandemic.

‘We would like to thank the people of Macroom, N22 road users, but in particular local residents for their patience and support with the scheme construction. We would also like to acknowledge the significant efforts and support of An Garda Síóchána in facilitating the delivery of the beams.’

Jonathan said the scheme is progressing well and because it is  a critical transport infrastructure, project works are continuing during Level 5. He believes it looks like it is on track to finish in two years’ time.

According to the Council’s head of services, roads and transportation, Padraig Barrett, who gave an update on the project at the Cork County Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting last week, 280 people were working on the project before Christmas. But, he said, this has significantly reduced since then and there are about 100 currently on site, due to government restrictions.

‘There will be two road closures in the coming months at Kilnagurteen and Cluain Fada, and more steel beams are on route from Portugal at the moment for the Bohill structure on the western side of the site near the county bounds,’ said Mr Barrett.

‘The essential works are continuing and we will be requiring the assistance  of An Garda Síochána with those deliveries to the site and blasting activities are also continuing on site,’ he added.

Paul Moran, regional manager for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) said that it’s hard for people to see the enormity of the works going on behind the hedges and walls.

‘Maybe people won’t see it all until the road is finished and open. However, it is fantastic to see the works and in particular, all the bridges that connect people and businesses, taking shape.’

Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the local authority is delighted to see the progress and thanked the people of Macroom and Baile Mhic Íre for their continued understanding during the delivery and placing of the beams, and throughout the construction phases.

The town will finally be able to ‘live and breathe’ again

By Kieran O’Mahony

FINE Gael TD Michael Creed said that taking out the unnecessary heavy traffic will allow Macroom ‘to breathe once again’ after years of congested traffic which will lead to a better quality of life for the people in the town.

‘It will also allow the town to reclaim what should be its natural catchment area as we were haemorrhaging north, south, east and west to other town centres,’ said Deputy Creed.

Deputy Creed said the number of family homes on the streetscapes of the town had diminished in recent years due to the heavy volume of traffic.

‘The possibility of a living, breathing town is now a distinct possibility now because it will be a safer, acceptable environment.’

However, Deputy Creed said that ‘one missing piece to the necklace’ is that they have to continue to finish the N22 section between Coolcower and Ovens Bridge which makes natural sense.

‘You need to fill in the gaps there from the Ballincollig bypass and we need to be investing now in the planning and design of it. There is a sterilised route corridor there with 10 years but no progress has been made on it. The traffic counts by Lissarda on the N22 (13,000 cars a day) are higher than between Junction 7 and 8 on the Cork to Dublin motorway (9,000 cars a day).’

Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan said the completion of the bypass is going to make a big  difference, not just to  Macroom but also the hinterland and the whole South West.

‘It’s a strategically important piece of infrastructure for the south west and it gives a whole note of new opportunities for the town centre and also the communities around it,’ said Deputy Moynihan.

‘With a number of new private and social housing developments already taking place in Macroom, along with  the construction of a new fire station, an extension at the community hospital and the fact that tenders have gone out for the town’s much-loved Briery Gap Theatre, there is a sense that a new era for the town is being heralded. The new garda HQ for the Cork South West Division is also earmarked to be built in Macroom.

‘I think Macroom has an opportunity to do really well once the bypass and the various developments are in place,’ Deputy Moynihan added.

‘The area around the town will also do well and people in the hinterland will be able to access the town much more easily. You remove that obstacle and then you offer new opportunities to people.’

Dan Buckley, who runs the family-owned Castle Hotel in the town with his brother Ger, said that while they were nervous about how it would affect their business, which is in operation 70 years, they see it as a good thing for Macroom.

‘We have a huge passing trade built up so we are slightly nervous about how we retain that but overall it’s going to be very good for the town,’ said Dan.

‘It will be up to the traders to encourage people to come to the town and there is plenty of parking available too and the general feeling is one of positivity for Macroom.’

Chairman of the Lee Valley Enterprise Board, Pat O’Connell, said that Macroom has been ‘choked with traffic’ over the last number of years, causing huge problems and actually turning people away from doing their shopping.

‘It’s going to be of huge benefit to the town and people will be able to come in and shop and park.

‘There are a lot of fine businesses in the town that should benefit from this,’ said Pat.

‘There is a lot of construction going on, with in the region of 160 to 200 houses being built on four different building sites at the moment. More businesses will be attracted to the town then. Macroom is unique also in that all of the retail businesses are in the town centre.’

Pat said a sub-committee has been set up to make sure that adequate signposting will be laid out on the bypass on both sides to indicate to motorists what is on offer in Macroom.

‘Macroom has a good reputation for business and serves a big hinterland of people and the bypass will see people returning back to shopping in the town.’

N22 will go through historic ambush site

THERE has been disquiet among some locals and historians about the fact that the N22 will go through the ambush site at Coolnacaheragh near Ballyvourney.

The site is set for to mark its centenary next month. The IRA attack on February 25th 1921 on a convoy of RIC and Auxiliaries resulted in 28 officers being killed, with no IRA casualties.

It even made the front page of The New York Times the following morning.

The four-hour ambush was seen as an important event during the War of Independence.

Despite several local historians making submissions to An Bord Pleanála, arguing that the by-pass would affect the site and calling for alternative routes, planning officials ruled against them.

Deputy Aindrias Moynihan told The Southern Star that at that oral hearing on a range of issues relating to the project, he spoke on the issue and was very much in favour of calling for the road to be moved away from the site.

‘Part of the new road is coming through where the original planned ambush was due to take place,’ said Deputy Moynihan.

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