Plans to close a spectacular mountain route between Cork and Kerry for road repairs have been postponed.
Thousands of tourists are lured to the three rock-cut tunnels on the main road between Glengarriff in West Cork and Kenmare in south Kerry.
The county border line runs through one of the hand-hewn tunnels on the N71, the main artery through West Cork and into Kerry through the Caha Mountains.
County councillors in Cork resisted plans to close the road for resurfacing during the peak tourist season in the South-West.
They breathed a sigh of relief, last week, as the council’s director for roads Tom Stritch said an executive decision had been taken to delay the works until October.
He warned, however, the works would necessitate a complete closure of 2km of the mountain pass which overlooks the magnificent Sheen Valley on the Kerry side and famed Bantry Bay on the Cork side.
Mr Stritch acknowledged the road closure, at any time of year, would greatly inconvenience daily commuters and delivery drivers, in particular.
But a decision had been taken, he said, to ensure it did not impact on the hundreds of thousands of tourists who travel it in their own vehicles or on tour buses during the summer months.
The senior official noted part of the road on the Cork side of the tunnel had been resurfaced a few years ago.
Compared to other sections of the national secondary road, he said the route, with climbs up to the tunnel on both sides of the county bounds, required more maintenance than most due to continuing erosion from mountain streams.
County councillors representing the West Cork region welcomed the decision, during the County Hall meeting, emphasising that tourism was a vital industry in the coastal region.
Meanwhile, in a related matter, Bantry-based Cllr Danny Collins said he was very concerned about pedestrian traffic on the busy route which led to the tunnel pass and also to Glengarriff’s National Park.
He warned there was a serious risk to pedestrians due to the lack of pavements “A footpath needs to be urgently built between the village and the nearby nature reserve,” he said.
“Around 70,000 people visit the nature reserve every year and many of them walk there from the village.
“It’s a dangerous road and somebody is going to get killed there,” Cllr Collins said.
He said local landowners had offered to provide the council with land to extend the footpath and suggested “council officials need to act on this sooner rather than later”.
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