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N26 upgrade ‘still breathing’

N26 upgrade ‘still breathing’

Anton McNulty

The N26 upgrade will be included in the preferred route option for the N5 Westport to Bohola road. Details of the road programme were outlined at last week’s Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) Roads meeting by Director of Services Paddy Mahon.
Mr Mahon said that despite a number of disappointments, the N26 upgrade project was ‘still breathing’ and that the preferred route design for the N5 should be completed by the end of the year.
He explained that the NRA was looking at where the new N26 would link up with the Turlough to Bohola section of the N5, which raised hope of a new road from Bohola to Ballina.
The original plan for phase two of the N26 from Ballina to Bohola was refused by An Bord Pleanala in 2010 because of environmental concerns and because the design of the road was thought to be ‘over ambitious’. Nearly €6 million was spent on planning and decision-making before its refusal. No funds were allocated in the 2012 NRA budget for a new road. The NRA did allocated €1.8 million on pavement works on the existing N26, however.
The SPC Roads meeting also discussed which type of road to Ballina would best cater for the needs of the town, with Erris-based councillor Gerry Coyle querying whether a Type 2 dual carriageway was necessary.
“It is not often that I agree with An Bord Pleanala but maybe it [previous N26 plan] was over ambitious. I was recently on the motorway from Gort to Limerick and it was scary because no one was on it. In rural areas we should concentrate on the roads we have and ensure they are pothole free and take the dangerous bends out of them. There is no need for motorways,” he said.
However, SPC member Eddie Lavelle disagreed saying that Ballina needed a two plus two road to attract industry to the town. Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said they all knew the N5 and N26 were not going to start anytime soon but they needed to think in the long term and a two plus two road may be needed in the future.

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