A 15km stretch of dual carriageway opens to traffic in Co Sligo today, marking the end of a lengthy campaign to have a section of road on which more than 30 people have died in collisions replaced.
Bernard Mulhern, of the N4 Action Group, said the €140 million stretch of the N4 between Castlebaldwin and Collooney provides a “fitting gateway to the northwest” but that it would be a “bitter-sweet day”.
He said the group was conscious of those who had died on the old section of the N4 Dublin to Sligo road, once described by a coroner as possibly the most dangerous in Ireland.
As part of their campaign for an improved road and to raise awareness of the dangers of the old one, the group erected 31 white crosses along the N4 marking each of the fatalities recorded on it.
Liam Brennan, who made the crosses with his son Niall and brother Vincent, said dealing with collisions has been part of their lives for decades.
“At one stage you could have two accidents a week, particularly at the Tawnagh turn-off,” he said. “I would often be involved in dealing with these accidents – ringing emergency services, supporting people who were in shock and helping with traffic flow until emergency services and recovery vehicles arrived on the scene.”
He said when the crosses were erected in 2012 they appeared to encourage motorists to slow down and underlined the need for a new section of road.
“One passerby commented that the road looked like a graveyard with all the crosses,” he said.
Mr Brennan said local man Brett Bartley came up with the idea of erecting the crosses and had been highlighting the road as an accident blackspot 50 years before the N4 Action Group was formed in 2000.
“He remembers that in 1950 there was talk of removing a steep hill outside his house, but 70 years later the hill is still there on the old N4.”
The official opening of the dual carriageway is expected to take place next month. Sligo County Council said that while the new dual carriageway would be open to traffic from this afternoon, works were ongoing on adjacent roads and a roundabout in Castlebaldwin.
The council said traffic management measures would be in place as a result of the works, but that any disruption to those using the dual carriageway would be minimal.