The long-awaited Macroom bypass is finally set to open next month, alleviating one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in Munster.
The first section of the €300m 22km N22 Ballyvourney-Macroom road, running from Coolcour, on the Cork City side of Macroom to Carrigaphooca on the western side, is due to open to general traffic in the second week of December, thecan reveal.
It will eliminate a notorious traffic blackspot on the main Cork to Killarney road — ending chronic traffic jams which choked the town centre at peak hours.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Aindreas Moynihan said it was like "Christmas coming early to the town".
And as well as the immediate benefits for the town centre, he said the opening within weeks of this key section of the overall route presents a unique opportunity for the town and its hinterland in the long term.
“It will in the immediate term lift the weight of traffic off the town," he said.
“But it will also provide a real opportunity, a real chance to revitalise the town.
“The town and its hinterland now needs to identify what it is good at, to identify what it will be known for, and identify what it wants to go after.
Engineers are now keeping an eye on the weather forecast in the hope they can finish the final works over the coming weeks, and be ready to open this section by December 9, as work on the other two sections continues.
It is understood Cork County Council will provide an official update on the exact opening date soon.
After almost two decades of campaigning and lobbying, planning was granted for the N22 project in 2011, but there was shock and disappointment in 2016 when the scheme was shelved due to a lack of funding.
But it got the green light in 2019 and the contract, between Cork County Council and Jons Civil Engineering–John Cradock Joint Venture Limited, was signed on November 2019 for the construction of 22km of dual carriageway, mainly along a new route along the existing N22.
The route runs through challenging terrain which varies from hilly remote land with rock outcrops at the western end, to low lying pasture lands to the east of Macroom, crossing a land-locked section of the Inniscarra Reservoir to the south-east of the town.
The scheme was divided into three sections for the construction phase, with section one focused on a bypass of Baile Bhuirne and Baile Mhic Íre, running from Slievereagh to Coolnacaheragh, section two involves work on the middle section from Coolnacaheragh to Carrigaphooca, with section three, the bypass of Macroom, running from Carrigaphooca to Coolcour, at the eastern side of town.
According to the most recent update from the project team, there has been very significant progress over the last six months on the Coolcour and Carrigaphooca section, which allows for the official opening of the Macroom bypass just ahead of Christmas.
On the western side of the scheme, a massive rock blasting programme saw 400,000 cubic metres of rock being removed from the deep cut at An Sliabh Riabhach, through 27 individual blasts.
Engineers then used 1,409 5 to 8m long nails to stabilise the rock cut slope.
The overall project includes the construction of 130 structures, including crossings of the Sullane, Laney, Foherish and Bohill rivers.
Engineers hope to have the entire scheme complete by the middle of next year.