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Confirmation has been issued that the first phase of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road (LNDR) will now proceed.

Concerns emerged in recent weeks regarding the future of the LNDR which would provide a transport link between the eastern and western fringes of Limerick City and a link to South Clare.

Word of a u-turn from the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan (GP) was confirmed on Wednesday morning when he was speaking on Limerick’s Live95 FM. He outlined that the final phase of the Coonagh to Knockalisheen road would proceed. Approximately €17m has already been spent on developing part of this roadway, which will run from Coonagh to Meelick and Knockalisheen on the Co Clare side, into the Northern end of Moyross.

Under the LNDR, a 10km stretch of new footpath and cycleway will be incorporated. It is intended that this will open South-East Clare to new opportunities including the South Clare Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) which would become Europe’s first 21 century University town. The road will also alleviate traffic problems in South Clare and Limerick City. A total cost of €58m is earmarked for the LNDR.

The Clare Echo understands that Minister Ryan has insisted on the inclusion of a bus corridor as part of the LNDR’s development.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Deputy Cathal Crowe (FF) was relieved the announcement from Minister Ryan would end the doubt surrounding the project. “This ends weeks of recent uncertainty and alarm in the locality that this road, despite 12 years of public consultation and preparatory works may not take place”. Both he and Willie O’Dea (FF) tabled a motion before last week’s meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party on the LNDR which received widespread backing including from the Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF).

Construction could begin “this side of the summer,” the Meelick native admitted, he said a contractor has been put in place. “Already, there is a causeway built along the Coonagh to Caherdavin stretch of the roadway, comprised of large boulders with an earth embankment. There is already an extensive network of drainage of sluice gates in place and the entire corridor from Coonagh as far as Meelick has already been fenced off”.

Crowe said it would have been wrong to pull the project at the eleventh hour. “I think people in South Clare will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that years of uncertainty will now end and this project will begin in earnest. The opportunities with this are endless and it’s now vital that both Clare and Limerick councils engage proactively with residents along the corridor of Phase 2 of this road so that their concerns can be listened to and some certainty can also be found for them”.

Deputy Joe Carey (FG) welcomed the turnaround in what he heralded as “great news for Clare, Limerick and the entire Mid-West region”. He believed the works would increase accessibility for Limerick Institute of Technology and lead to further investment in the Mid-West.

“Common sense has prevailed in providing a critical piece of infrastructure,” Carey told The Clare Echo. He was hopeful sewerage issues in Meelick would be rectified as part of the works with the trunk main tipped to be linked towards the main system in Limerick as a result. The Clarecastle native is hopeful works will commence as soon as possible.

At a meeting of Clare County Council on Monday both Cllr Michael Begley (IND) and Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) stressed the importance of the LNDR to the progression of the SDZ and Clare’s access to the University of Limerick. Chief Executive of the Council, Pat Dowling called the LNDR “a critical piece of infrastructure for the region” and said any decision to go back to the drawing board on it would represent “a retrograde step”.

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