Leitrim residents dismayed at bypass proposals

Carrick-on-Shannon road scheme ‘lunacy’ due to footfall and noise pollution concerns

Kenny Murtagh, owner of pleasure cruiser Moon River  in Carrick on Shannon: Customers come because they can be “in the wilderness five minutes after leaving Carrick”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Kenny Murtagh, owner of pleasure cruiser Moon River in Carrick on Shannon: Customers come because they can be “in the wilderness five minutes after leaving Carrick”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Sixteen thousand cars pass over the Shannon into Carrick-on-Shannon on busy days, with more traffic coming into the Leitrim town from other roads, clogging its streets.

Plans for a bypass have been mooted for 20 years, although a 2002 route that would have bypassed the town to the north and included a new Shannon bridge fell away after the economic crash in 2008.

Today, there are new options, marked in eight colours in Leitrim County Council maps. Some overlap for much, or nearly all of their distance, but, in essence, there are two directions of travel.

One would bring motorists north of the town via Dromore and Cartown, and crossing the Shannon west of the town, while two more go south through Attirory, Attifinlay and Cortober.

None of them are much favoured by critics, who note that the deadline for public submissions comes on the same day as one for a proposed 8.5km cycle blueway between Carrick and Leitrim village.

Kenny Murtagh, who operates Shannon cruises with his Moon River boat, says most of his customers come to the Leitrim town and his boat because they can be “in the wilderness five minutes after leaving Carrick”.

Depending on which option is chosen, the bypass could run through Hartley and a rural hinterland and include a raised road over a flood plain, which some local residents disparagingly compare to “the Brooklyn bridge”.

Bypassed and forgotten

The raised bridge proposed – and this is the route most likely to be accepted – would run for 3km beside “fens and raised bogs, over callows, beside a floating boardwalk, and tranquil pastoral lands”, according to one local.

The noise and visual pollution would, critics argue, damage Carrick’s tourist attraction since it would affect those brought to the town for cruising trips on the Shannon or to use the cycle blueway, locals complain.

Hundreds of people have signed petitions opposing this corridor and another route known as the “Cyan and Orange Corridor” which is adjacent to a number of housing estates in Attirory, on the Dublin side of the town.

Local business man Liam Farrell, who owns a cineplex, has different concerns, fearing, like others, that the town will be both bypassed and forgotten if the project goes ahead:

“We have seen places bypassed where we used to stop, and now we keep going. Unless there is a very large internal population, it can be damaging,” he told The Irish Times.

Local Independent county councillor Enda Stenson agrees: “People won’t bother to stop. I have never been to Kinnegad or Enfield since they were bypassed.

“People in Ballaghaderreen estimate they have seen a 60 per cent drop in footfall since being bypassed. Carrick cannot afford that,” says Stenson, who has been a frequent critic of the proposals.

Locals in Attirory, Attifinlay and Cortober are equally annoyed that they could could be affected after they received letters recently telling them that their homes are within a 300m corridor of some of the proposed routes.

‘It’s crazy’

A number of estates, including Cnoc na Sí, Ard na Sí and Glas na hAbhann, lie in the way: “I always thought a bypass went around, not through,” said Jennifer Logan of a recently formed action group. “It’s crazy in a county like Leitrim with so much green space.”

Local Geraldine Gray says other options such as connecting the N4 and N5 at Elphin or using “smart signage” to alert drivers to long delays are needed, especially since planners believe the bypass will only take 5,000 vehicles a day out of the town

“The design engineers’ own statistics suggest that Carrick would still be left with 11,000 vehicles crossing the bridge after the bypass is built because 80 per cent of journeys are local,” she told The Irish Times.

Describing both plans as “lunacy”, Jason O’Brien owner of Vittos restaurant in Carrick said cheaper solutions exist, including a link between the Leitrim and Castlecara roads.

At a stroke, this would take 5,000 cars daily away from having to enter the town and “would cost a fraction of the millions required” for either bypass, he argued.

Meanwhile, Geraldine (Geri) Dunne points out the irony of planning a cycleway and a bypass at the same – one exploiting the Shannon’s “peace and tranquillity” and the other bringing noise and pollution: “It beggars belief that Leitrim County Council would even consider [it].”

However, consultants Arup say the plans are being developed “in a completely different regulatory environment” to the original proposals two decades ago, with tougher European Union habitats rules.

Sensitive habitats have been found close to or on the line of all of the options available, but something must be done, or else “traffic would build up from Boyle to Dromod”, on either side of Carrick, said the company.