€35m Castleisland bypass opens


THE CO Kerry town of Castleisland was enjoying an unusual peace yesterday evening as bank holiday weekend traffic heading for north Kerry was, for the first time, able to use a new €35 million bypass of the town.

The bypass was the only new road building scheme to be started by the National Roads Authority in 2009.

Credit for the near-6km bypass getting through a Government embargo on new schemes was immediately claimed by the Independent Kerry TD Jackie Healy-Rae, who said he had used his position as a Government supporter to “at all times put the interest of the people [of Kerry] first”.

He said the Opposition should not criticise his advantage and “stop trying to jeopardise the further items that I have an agreement on”.

Yesterday’s opening was two months ahead of schedule, ending more than a decade of campaigning by local residents and business interests concerned with chronic traffic congestion in the town.

The new road is now expected to take up to 30 minutes off journeys at busy times. It is also expected to divert 60 per cent of all traffic from the town and almost 80 per cent of heavy goods vehicles.

The route bypasses Castleisland to the west of the town and links the N23 Killarney Road at Clashganniv to the N21 Limerick Road at Dooneen, via the N21 Tralee Road at Knockannagore.

Opening the route Minister for Defence Tony Killeen said it was a major step in improving access to Kerry. On a regional level, he said the development “improves overall regional connectivity for people conducting their day-to-day business which is vital for the entire region’s economic wellbeing”.

Mayor of Kerry Pat Leahy also pointed to the benefits of improved access to the county. “Traditionally there have been long delays passing through Castleisland town,” the mayor said. “Now, thanks to the hard work of many people, especially the people of Castleisland, we are able to declare these delays a thing of the past.”

It was, he added, particularly satisfying that the bypass opened before the October bank holiday weekend, when there was added traffic on the roads.

Fred Barry, chief executive of the National Roads Authority, said the authority “understands” the importance of the N21 Castleisland bypass, not only for daily road user, but for visitors and business throughout the region.