A political row is threatening to erupt over a council decision to carry out large scale roadworks along one of Longford town’s busiest stretches of road.
Several councillors have this week voiced their displeasure at plans to introduce traffic lights permanently at the N63 railway bridge on the main Longford to Athlone Road. Also in the pipeline are measures to reduce a single lane of traffic under the bridge and an extension of a footpath to uphold the safety of local pedestrians.
But it is the timing, less than a month before the Christmas shopping season, which has caused most disquiet amongst councillors locally.
Two of those opposed to the roadworks, Cllrs Paul Connell and Mark Casey, both questioned the practicalities behind the decision.
Cllr Connell said he couldn’t understand why priority had been given to a relatively short length of road at a time when greater attention should have been given to other projects.
“Money was given last year for the Cathedral Junction but that still hasn’t been done,” he argued. “Why has the railway bridge now suddenly been given precedence? It doesn’t make sense.”
Cllr Connell said the council had responded by saying a decision with regard to the N63 had been made prior to its present Infrastructural Director of Services, Jack Kilgallon taking over that portfolio earlier this year.
Whatever about the ins and outs of internal local authority reshuffling, Cllr Connell said proposals to introduce a stop-go system at the bridge would inflict untold damage on the town’s already hard-pressed retail industry.
“It will clog up the town,” he said. “If you want to access Supervalu, Aldi or any shops down that end of town you will find shoppers having to join a growing queue of traffic.”
Cllr Mark Casey agrees with his council colleague.
“Last year we had two lanes of traffic going into Longford town, now we have one. How can that be seen as progress? The thought that seems to have gone into this is absolutely zero,” he bluntly put it.
But in an end of year road project which has generated much political debate locally, a number of other councillors said they were largely in favour of the planned overhaul.
Cllr Martin Mulleady said the work was necessary on the grounds of health and safety, a view which was also shared by Cllr Paddy Belton.
“I welcome it,” he stated “The bridge has been a concern for some time, especially if you happen to meet a lorry there,” he said.
County Mayor, Cllr Sean Farrell was of a similar view, revealing how his own “narrow shave”at that well-known blackspot had all but confirmed his own views on the matter.
“The feedback I have been getting has been mostly positive,” he said. “Traffic lights on a stop-go system is the only short or medium solution to this. Widening the bridge can always be looked at in the future.
For their part, Longford County Council said work is likely to finish along the N63 next Monday (December 10) at a cost of €40,000.
“Longford County Council programmed the works to commence post the N5 by-pass opening. The scheme was also reliant on the provision of additional NRA (National Roads Authority) funding which was confirmed in recent weeks,” a statement from the local authority confirmed this week.