THERE was good news for Athy on Friday that the traffic-congested town will finally get its much-need multimillion Athy southern distributor route after a long road of court actions, Bord Pleanala hearings and 34 years of waiting. The project will have a very significant bearing on the future development of Athy as a major regional centre in its own right. The road, which was first mooted in 1978, will run from the Castledermot Road, by the back of the Rugby Club, along Aughaboura and the disused railway line, onwards to the Kilkenny Road, via Dunbrinn. Indeed at one stage the town was divided for several years over the proposed inner relief road, but consensus was reached in more recent times.
Sources tell the Leader the route will be part of the Government’s ‘jobs list’ of capital investment projects to kick-start economic growth and it hopes to make the announcement before a vote on the EU fiscal treaty in the coming weeks.
The strongest sign yet for its go-ahead came from Deputy Jack Wall, who is also Labour Party Parliamentary Chairman. He believes the project will be successful and will be started during the lifetime of this Government.
On local radio last Friday morning, he stated that the project will be included in the Government’s stimulus package to be announced in several weeks by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Yes, he inadvertently let the ‘cat out of the bag’. Indeed, his party colleague town councillors were also quick to spread the good news on social media.
In a statement to the Leader after, Deputy Wall said: “Over almost 30 years, Athy has being held back by the lack of proper infrastructure, one bridge for all the traffic within the town. Since entering Government I have continuously highlighted the case for such a road and its economic and social importance for the town of Athy. In recent meetings with Minister Howlin he has positively considered these arguments and how such a relief road is essential to the future of the town.
“The fight to underpin the finance needed to deliver this road will continue over the coming weeks. I want to re-affirm my commitment to the people of Athy and its surrounds that I will continue to make the strongest possible representations in relation to this project, I want to thank Minister Howlin for his positive interest in this project and I look forward to delivering this road for the people of Athy in the shortest possible time.”
His party colleague Deputy Martin Heydon remained “over-cautious” until the “money is absolutely nailed down”.
“I have consistently raised the importance of the Southern Distributor Route with Minister Varadkar and he is very aware of the huge need for it in the town of Athy,” the statement read.
“The cost benefit analysis carried out by Kildare County Council highlighted the huge advantages that the completion of the road would have on trade in the town and the Minister accepts these points. There is a large amount of work going on behind the scenes to progress the project however there has as yet been no agreement on funding.
“I remain cautious about any announcements until there is a clear commitment on funding but rest assured that I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that the new road is delivered,” the statement concluded.
The Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform, and Transport have yet to respond to press queries on funding, the go-ahead and a time-frame for the project. South Kildare is eagerly awaiting its announcement.