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Council exploring alternatives to Achill bridge

News

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS The location for the proposed greenway bridge on Achill Island.

Tender for controversial bridge was three times its budget

Edwin McGreal

Mayo County Council are exploring short-term alternative routes to a greenway bridge in Achill which has become mired in a funding controversy.
Plans for a 45 metre span suspended cycle bridge at Springvale, Achill Sound became national news when it emerged last December that Mayo County Council had falsely claimed it was completed, drawing down €200,000 in government funding in 2019.
However, the bridge is still not in place and it faces an uncertain future. Mayo County Council are looking at alternative routes in the short-term, including going out onto the nearby main road.
The bridge is the missing link to connect the Achill Island Greenway from Achill Sound to Saula, which is an extension of the Great Western Greenway from Westport to Achill.
The council applied for €200,000 in funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development’s Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS). They submitted the bridge would cost €250,000 and therefore applied for the maximum of 80 percent of the project’s cost.
On October 31, 2019 the council signed a declaration submitting that the bridge was built and drew down the €200,000 Department funding.
However, following a Department audit which commenced in March 2020, the Department found no construction work had commenced on the bridge and the spend to date had been only €32,000, relating to underground ducting and professional fees.
Furthermore, the Department revealed that the tender for the bridge came in at three times the budget estimate.
The council were subsequently forced to return the €200,000, leaving the plans at a crossroads. In response to questions from The Mayo News, the council say they are still seeking to construct a bridge at Springvale.
“Mayo County Council would like to confirm that we are committed to advancing the delivery of a footbridge at Springvale, on the Achill Greenway. This project will require grant funding and  further work needs to be carried out to review the project and to establish clear costings with a view to making such an application for funding,” the council stated.
Currently Mayo County Council are frozen out of all funding schemes from the Department of Rural and Community Development, pending reviews.

Main road
Construction is ongoing on a greenway connecting Saula to Cashel which will complete a 5km stretch from Achill Sound but the missing link is the bridge at Springvale.
The council confirm they are looking at options, including diverting cyclists out onto the main R319 road through Achill, then turning right onto the L5443 Springvale/Saula road.
“In the short term, Mayo County Council are examining alternative routes, including the option of using the existing county road to facilitate use of the route in the months ahead. We are progressing with the work to ensure that the 5km section of Greenway from Achill Sound to Cashel will be open this year,” stated the council.
Meanwhile, the council say they are also ‘committed’ to bringing a greenway from Bertra to Louisburgh. The council had to hand back €250,000 for the Bertra to Lecanvey section and €624,000 for the Old Head to Louisburgh section after Department inspections found that construction had not commenced on either section, despite the council claiming to the contrary.
“Mayo County Council are committed to the development of a Greenway between Bertra and Louisburgh. The project will be carried out in accordance with TII’s (Transport Infrastructure Ireland) Code of Best Practice, which will involve public consultation and identification and assessment of route options,” they said.
It was confirmed recently that TII will take over greenway projects from the council and will proceed to compulsory purchase orders if needed.