The Taoiseach will be the first to travel on the long-awaited Macroom bypass when the first section of it opens later this afternoon.
The 8km section of the €300m bypass will be officially opened by Micheál Martin at 11am, with members of the public being able to travel the new route from 2pm.
Vintage cars from Muskerry Vintage Club will be part of the Taoiseach’s cavalcade from the Millstreet Cross side of the town. The County Mayor, Cllr Danny Collins, will also be among those attending the opening, along with other elected representatives.
The first section of the new road - which stretches from Coolcower on the Cork city side of the town to Carrigaphooca on the Kerry side - is set to alleviate major traffic problems in Macroom town. Peak times in the town were dominated by long tailbacks, with tourist traffic adding to the backlogs during the summer season.
The 22km bypass will run alongside the current N22 road. However, when completed, the overall project will have eliminated the twists and turns between Macroom and Ballyvourney.
Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan said: “It is a hugely positive day for Macroom – it is a new chapter opening for the town, the whole Lee Valley and the southwest.”
He is hoping the economy of the town will benefit from the bypass, explaining that much of the traffic currently going through Macroom does not stop in the town. The campaign for a bypass for the town has been running for years, and planning was granted for the N22 project in 2011.
However, the project was shelved in 2016 because of funding issues. Contracts for the project were finally signed in November 2019, between Cork County Council and Jons Civil Engineering–John Cradock Joint Venture Limited.
Rockblasting has been a crucial aspect of the western sections of the new bypass, with 400,000 cubic metres of rock being removed from an area called An Sliabh Riabhach. A total of 27 individual blasts were involved in that part of the project.
According to Cork County Council, engineers used more than 1,400 nails from 5m to 8m in length 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.
The overall project is set to be completed in the middle of next year. Earlier this week, Cork County Council released a video of the road to show the layout, ahead of its opening to traffic.
In recent weeks, a walk and run took place on the new roadway, allowing locals a chance to walk and run along it, organised by West Muskerry Athletic Club. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Macroom Fairy Garden, and Macroom Senior Citizens.
Today’s opening will be one of Micheál Martin’s final public duties as Taoiseach, before the transition of power to the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar.