Councillors find some bright spots in NRA funding
County councillors found positive news for smaller works in the National Roads Authority's (NRA) 19 million euro allocation to Donegal announced earlier this week, even though key county projects received nothing.
The 2011 allocation was about 7 million euro more than the funding the council received from the NRA about a year ago, but still included nothing for the Ballybofey and Stranorlar bypass, the N14 from Manorcunningham to Lifford, the N15 from Ballybofey to Lifford and the proposed Letterkenny relief road at Bonagee.
Still, the authority funded 3.8 million euro for major works on the N56 from Dungloe to Glenties and from Mountcharles to Inver. A new bridge across the River Finn to link the N15 in Lifford to the new A5 dual carriageway in the north received more than 1 million euro for design and land acquisition. There was also 475,000 for safety improvements, 10.6 million euro for pavement and minor works, 1.6 million for maintenance and 1.4 million for bridge rehabilitation for projects around the county.
A council delegation met with the NRA earlier this month to lobby for the priority road projects as part of a 23 million euro package, but the mayor, county manager, councillors and senior roads staff were told that funding for new construction would not be available for several years.
Fianna Fil Cllr. Ciaran Brogan welcomed the 250,000 euro for the Coolboy-Kilmacrennan realignment scheme, the area known as the Blue Banks. He said he stressed the importance of that project at the meeting with the NRA.
"With preliminary design almost complete, hopefully we can get land acquisition completed and allow this project to go out to tender next year," he said. He also welcomed 20,000 euro for a pedestrian crossing at the Ballyraine roundabout, 30,000 euro for the four-lane road from Dry Arch to Port Bridge, and 20,000 for safety measures at Trimragh junction.
Fianna Fil Cllr. Dessie Larkin also called the Coolboy funding "a bright spot" in the announcement, and welcomed the 20,000 euro for traffic calming at Manorcunningham, a measure to upgrade access to the town by providing a better-identified traffic entrance.
But he said the lack of funding for the relief road was "very, very bad news," he said, noting that the Land Use and Transportation Study (Luts) was one of several to endorse a relief road for Letterkenny.
Sinn Fin Cllr. Pdraig MacLochlainn, chairperson of the council's roads and transportation strategic policy committee, said the campaign for the N14 and the Letterkenny relief road will continue. He said the new A5 is crucial to the region, "but the full benefit of the project to Letterkenny and north and west Donegal cannot be realised if the Irish government does not ensure that plans for these link roads are tied into the A5 project."
"It would be totally unacceptable for the existing, treacherous N14 road to still be the route linking that bridge to Letterkenny and the rest of the county," Cllr. MacLochlainn said. He will seek a meeting for the council with the new transport minister after the general election.
Fianna Fil Cllr. Patrick McGowan said the bypass should be prioritised above other projects. "As far as I'm concerned, the bypass is and always has been a priority above the realignment of Lifford to Manor," Cllr. McGowan said. "Half the country has to come in through this way."
But he welcomed funding for the new bridge at Lifford and said he was pleased that all parties at last week's North-South meeting seemed to reiterate their commitment to the A5.