Dozens of road crashes could be avoided by upgrading a substandard road in Co Kerry, an oral hearing was told yesterday.
Multiple entrances and junctions added to the dangers of the winding road from Tralee to Dingle, where accident rates are higher than the national average.
Project manager for the planned upgrading of the N86, Dara Walsh told the Bord Pleanála hearing a recent review found “the pattern of a high incidence of single vehicle and head-on collisions was indicative of a narrow road with poor alignment, generally driven at high vehicle speeds”.
The National Roads Authority plans to upgrade 32km of the 49km main route under a pilot scheme for national secondary tourist roads.
The plans are to use the existing alignment but providing cycleways and pedestrian paths on both sides of the road in a so-called “type 3 single carriageway road” from Dingle to Annascaul, and Gortabreagoge to Camp.
The planned cost is €65m and will include “defined overtaking sections”.
Ten years ago, 2,000 signatures were collected to improve the pot-holed deficient road. A group of residents also met an EU petitions committee to argue their case for an upgrade.
The local ambulance service had complained people suffering from spinal injuries were in danger of worsening their conditions.
The N86 has now been prioritised and is to be upgraded in stages.
However, objections have been received from sustainable development organisations in Dingle which are questioning the scale of the proposal along with its impact on environmental and tourism grounds.
There are fears the road’s traditional character or “personality” will be lost in the widening, along with some of its stunning views.
Some 309 landowners or groups of owners are involved in the compulsory purchase order and most had reached agreement with the council.
Kerry County Council senior engineer Mr Walsh said the 28km section had 32 junctions and, excluding field entrances, there were 119 private entrances — or five entrances per kilometre.
The design of many of the junctions or entrances were substandard, he said.
Council engineer Paul Stack said one of the major difficulties of the area was “peripherality”. Villages on the route would benefit from better access, he said.
The NRA was now focusing on national secondary routes “and providing access to areas of the country that have high amenity and tourist value,” he told the hearing.
Some 7,844 metres of hedgerow will be lost in the scheme. However, ecologist Richard Mundy, who worked on the council’s environmental impact statement, said the fact the majority of the proposed road realignment followed the course of the existing N86 “greatly reduces the likelihood of a number of ecological impacts that are ordinarily associated with road construction”.
The hearing continues.
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