Sligo road upgrade end of a ‘nightmare’ for local community

Principal says she can now encourage pupils to cycle and walk to school

Aisling Tighe: ‘For years, we have been looking at white crosses on the road, and many people in the community know who they belong to.’  Photograph: Oonagh Taylor

Aisling Tighe: ‘For years, we have been looking at white crosses on the road, and many people in the community know who they belong to.’ Photograph: Oonagh Taylor

 

The principal of a Co Sligo primary school said the official opening by Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Monday of a €140 million road upgrade marks the end of a “nightmare” for the local community and a new era for her pupils.

Aisling Tighe, principal of the 70-pupil Cloghogue school outside Castlebaldwin, said that for the first time she can encourage children to cycle and walk to school, after years of being afraid to have them negotiate a road once dubbed by a coroner as possibly the most dangerous stretch in the country.

“For years, we have been looking at white crosses on the road, and many people in the community know who they belong to,” said the school principal. She has recently applied for funding for a 10-bay bike shelter, to coincide with a surge in interest in cycling.

Ms Tighe was referring to a decades-long campaign by the local N4 Action Group which erected 31 white crosses along the Collooney to Castlebaldwin stretch of the N4 to mark all the lives lost there over three decades. The crosses, which many said created the effect of driving through a graveyard, were seen as instrumental in winning backing for the new 15km road.

Sligo County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland have estimated that the new dual carriageway will save 27 lives and result in 1,000 fewer injuries over the next 30 years.

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The school principal said she had gone to school with a young woman who died on the old N4 “and every time I see the cross I think of her”.

The Taoiseach will unveil a plaque dedicated to the memory of all those who died on the Collooney to Castlebaldwin stretch where lack of safe overtaking opportunities, poor visibility and alignment and up to 18 junctions per kilometre, were among the factors believed responsible for multiple collisions.

Economic lifeline

While the new road has been described by politicians as a “game-changer”, which will be an economic lifeline, making Sligo more attractive to investors, Ms Tighe said the quality of life of the community had already been improved. A 3.4km off-road greenway has been constructed close to Collooney and there are plans for a cycle way to extend from there to Castlebaldwin.

“As a small school, we are always struggling for numbers and we’re going to lose a teacher this year,” said the principal. “We’re hoping more people will move to the area now that it is quicker to get to Sligo. You’ll get the beauty of the countryside and the accessibility of being closer to Sligo.”

But she said the key change for families was the peace of mind it gave them having so many cars and trucks off the old N4, making it safer for everyone.

Mr Martin will meet a small number of children from the school when he visits Castlebaldwin on Monday.

Welcoming the project Mr Martin said: “It will significantly improve road safety for local communities and for everyone travelling between Sligo and Dublin.”

The 2½-year scheme included the construction of 12 bridges and the acquisition of 200 hectares of land. It is one of the first National Roads Projects delivered under Project Ireland 2040’s regional connectivity objective.