Shannon Chamber chief executive Helen Downes has described the public consultation phase of the N19 Shannon Airport Access Road Improvement Scheme, which has led to the delivery of a revised design for this critical stretch of road in Shannon, as a good example of how infrastructural projects impacting communities should be undertaken.
Ms Downes welcomed the fact that suggestions made by Shannon Chamber in its submissions of December 2020 and December 2021 and in its response to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report have all been listened to and taken on board where appropriate. In instances where Chamber suggestions could not be accommodated, an explanation as to why they were not feasible has been given.
She also stated that Chamber directors and executive were invited to participate in an online meeting with representatives from all the organisations involved in the project – Clare County Council, Transport for Ireland, Mid-West National Road Design Office, and the design consultants, Fehily Timoney.
“This was a very productive meeting. We were given an update on the design progression and taken through how our suggestions were accommodated. In all our submissions, we expressed the view that the solution to the N19 road improvement must be delivered by thinking not just of the road but of the opportunity to connect and reinforce Shannon’s three key components (airport, industrial zone and town) and its linkage with and influence on the wider region and corridor,” said Ms Downes.
Requests made by Shannon Chamber during the public consultation phases included:
- That the land and planning reservation included in the County Development Plan for a rail link to Shannon be taken account of, given that the planning reservation follows the route of the N19.
- That the existing pathways and the river embankments should be used to create a combined pedestrian and cycleway close to the N19 as doing so would make use of existing river walks, Shannon Free Zone pedestrian and running tracks, and the existing river embankments which follow the line of the N19. It would also provide an opportunity to start a greenway from the airport doors, making the River more accessible and visible to those arriving/departing Shannon Airport.
- That the selected route be linked in some way to the creation of a walkway/cycleway along the top of the embankment and that usage by new transport options, such as eScooters, be accommodated in the final selected option.
- That the existing footpath running next to the airfield security fence be retained as that side of the road is regularly used by pedestrian aircraft enthusiasts. With no pedestrian crossing between Knockbeagh Point and the Shannon Free Zone (SFZ) entrance, retaining the footpath would complement the cycle/pedestrian pathway on the opposite side.
- That the existing pedestrian crossing between the Drumgeely Apartments and the SFZ be maintained, and that the bus stop in this area also be maintained.
- That the proposal to replace the existing Drumgeely roundabout main entrance/exit to the SFZ with traffic lights and pedestrian crossings be carefully considered given that the existing pedestrian bridges are well used by commuters to and from the SFZ.
- That when the upgrade works are designed and planned, adequate provision be made for signage and related visuals that incorporate all the elements of Shannon – i.e., Shannon Airport, Shannon Free Zone, Smithstown, and Shannon Town on the approach to Shannon and the latter three on the way out from airport.
- That the project should take account of the new Shannon Town Centre Masterplan.
“It was most encouraging to see that all of our requests have been incorporated into the latest ‘Design Update’ drawings, which are now available on the project website Design Update (shannonaccess.ie),”Ms Downes stated.
“The Scheme includes significant active travel to improve both north to south and east to west travel. This includes five signalised crossing points between Drumgeely Junction and Knockbeagh Roundabout, in addition to maintaining the existing N19 footbridge east of Drumgeely junction.
“It ties into and facilitates connections to existing and proposed walking routes, as outlined in the Shannon Town Centre Masterplan, and includes an improved footpath from Knockbeagh Point to Drumgeely Hill on the north side of N19. The junction at Drumgeely Hill has been updated to include footway/cycleway connections to Fergus Drive and significant active travel and public transport upgrades at Drumgeely Junction to improve permeability.
“We were delighted to note that consultation is ongoing with Failte Ireland in relation to road signage and that, while not considered a part of this Scheme, a rail link to Shannon continues to be an objective of Clare County Council. That’s why Shannon Chamber believes that maintaining the reservation for a railway be maintained,” said Ms Downes.
Thanking the combined team for providing Shannon Chamber with such a comprehensive update, Ms Downes reiterated the point that the level of interaction between all parties on this Scheme was an excellent example of a collaborative approach to infrastructure delivery.