Potential routes for Athlone to Galway Greenway outlined

Five route corridor options for the Athlone to Galway cycleway, which could potentially see it veer as far north as Mountbellew, or as far south as Portumna and Gort, have been outlined ahead of a new round of public consultation next week.

The online public consultation period kicks off on Monday next, January 25, and will last for five weeks.

Feedback is being sought from interested parties, landowners and stakeholders to contribute to the process of identifying a preferred route corridor by the middle of this year.

Of the five route corridor options, one could be described as an as-the-crow-flies path from Athlone to Galway, in roughly the shortest possible distance, passing through Ballinasloe, Athenry and Oranmore.

Other potential routes take a more meandering course through parts of east Galway, Roscommon and west Offaly, potentially incorporating villages and towns such as Ballyforan, Ahascragh, Shannonbridge and Loughrea, depending on the route chosen.

Three of the five route corridors would connect Athlone with Ballinasloe, with the exceptions being the southernmost corridors which take in Shannonbridge, Portumna and Loughrea; or Shannonbridge, Portumna and Gort.

"The options have been developed to connect likely tourism and leisure attractions, and use publicly-owned land where possible," the advertisement for the latest round of public consultation explains.

"The options use state-owned lands such as flood defence embankments, forestry tracks, bog roads and Bord na Móna railways.

"In order to connect the state-owned lands, we have identified 'Consultation Areas' on privately owned lands where we would like to talk to the landowners and explore possible routes. These routes would follow existing features and farm boundaries minimising severance."

Last year council planners announced that they were making a "fresh start" on the project, which had been "paused" in 2015 amid controversy and strong objections from farmers and other landowners who would have been impacted by the cycleway, particularly in East Galway.

The first round of public consultations on the study area for the project, which would complete the Dublin to Galway cycle route, took place back in August.

Locally, the study area incorporates the area from Hill of Berries in Athlone directly across in a straight line just south of the village of Curraghboy and across to Ballygar. To the south, it generally follows the route of the Shannon, down past Clonown, Shannonbridge, Shannon Harbour, Banagher and into Portumna.

From Monday next, the five route options and all of the consultation material will be available for viewing online in a 'Virtual Consultation Room' which will be live on the project website www.galwaytoathlonecycleway.com for five weeks.

During this period interested parties will be able to meet with the project team by arrangement to discuss any issues, either by phone or by video appointment.

If a landowner has property within these areas, the team is encouraging them to contact the consultation team to give their opinion on the cycleway project. This can be done through online virtual consultation on the website, where an appointment can be booked to talk to the project team, or by calling the Cycleway Project Office in Ballinasloe at 091 509267.

Project Liaison Officers will be available to meet by appointment, in compliance with the applicable Covid-19 protocols. It emerged during the week that Transport Infrastructure Ireland has rubberstamped an allocation of €7.6 million this year to Westmeath County Council to help progress the cycle route in 2021.

Some €1.35 million of this total is earmarked for the work on bringing it from Athlone to Galway which is being managed by the local authority.

Another €75,000 has been set aside for maintenance on the Athlone to Maynooth section. The vast bulk of the remainder is for detailed design work on a new bridge in Athlone this year and a much smaller portion for the management and building of the White Gates to Athlone Marina section.