A €48 million plan to close Dublin's Merrion Gates level crossing to traffic and build a cycle path from Sandymount to Blackrock is in disarray, almost 18 months after first being proposed.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has said it can find no "viable alternative" to the construction of a two-way traffic flyover between Strand Road and Merrion Road in Dublin 4, a proposal which has been strongly opposed in the surrounding area.
The NTA is now considering splitting the project to allow the section of cycle track south of the Merrion Gates to progress, while deferring the controversial flyover and gates closure. A committee of councillors from Dublin city and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown will be convened in the coming weeks to consider the move.
In October 2016, the NTA published plans to tackle congestion at the Merrion Gates which causes tailbacks on the Merrion and Rock roads as traffic funnels into the narrow Strand Road towards Ringsend.
There have also been several incidents where cars and lorries have crashed through the level crossing barriers, disrupting train services.
The plan proposed the closure of the level crossing, with traffic diverted on to a new road and bridge over the rail line further north through the car parks of Merrion Hall on Strand Road and Our Lady Queen of Peace church on Merrion Road.
The project would also facilitate the extension of the Dublin Bay cycle path – a continuous coastal route from Sutton to Sandycove, known as the S2S – to the south side, by digging an underpass at the level crossing for use by cyclists and pedestrians.
The scheme would require the widening of Merrion Road and Rock Road with the acquisition of 35 properties, mostly front gardens, but a small number of houses and other buildings.
By January 2017, the NTA had received 680 submissions, many raising concerns about the effect on properties and traffic of the overhead road, and the closure of the gates. A report on the public consultation process was to have been issued by the middle of last year but was never published.
In a recent letter to Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys, the NTA said it had been unable to come up with an alternative scheme because of EU protections on the seafront.
“Because of those environmental constraints we do not yet see a viable alternative scheme that complies with current environmental law. Yet the problems of increasing congestion remain.”
Mr Humphreys said it was “totally unacceptable” that the NTA had yet to reach a decision on the scheme.
“Large numbers of householders have been left in limbo, unable to move on, not just the 35 [properties] which might be compulsorily purchased, but people who have the prospect of a visually intrusive flyover looming over their homes.”
The lack of a decision also called into question the NTA’s ability to plan infrastructure, he said. “They’ve had two years at this, they need to accept it’s the wrong infrastructure in the wrong place, and come up with a better solution. Splitting it and deferring it will only leave it hanging over residents.”
Michael Griffin, chair of the Sydney Parade Avenue residents association, said the local road capacity had already been exceeded and the flyover plan was “tantamount to trying to pour a pint into a half-pint glass”.
Traffic, including heavy goods vehicles, would back up on the flyover which would join the narrowest section of Merrion Road he said. “It will be making a frightful bottleneck worse rather than better.”
A spokesman for the Merrion Road residents committee said the NTA’s plans would create problems accessing St Vincent’s Hospital, and the new National Maternity Hospital.