Westport greenway users left to cross new €250m 100km/h bypass unaided

With frustration due to lack of action, a local Councillor is asking the public to email Mayo County Council’s CEO.

Mayo County Council has left users of the Westport to Newport greenway to fend for themselves crossing a brand new 100km/h road at a roundabout with no notable safety aids.

There is a section new greenway path which is built via an underpass under the new road, but that walking and cycling path currently abruptly stops under the road without linking to the Great Western Greenway north of the popular tourist town.

The new northern bypass of Westport was built as part of the N5 Westport to Turlough Road Project, which also bypasses Castlebar.

When the road opened this month the price tag was quoted as €250 million, but only a short time before that cost of the project was reported in local media as soaring from the approved €241 million to €300 million — it’s unclear where the final bill will lie but there are massive project costs not to have also included high-quality walking and cycling provision.

The roundabout where the “temporary” greenway crossing is located is where the upgraded N5 ends and meets with a realigned section of the N59, just northwest of Westport GAA Club and 1km from the centre of the town.

The road is a single lane in each direction where it meets the greenway in Westport but there are concerns about the lack of planning for walking and cycling along other sections of the new road both in Westport and near Castlebar.

This includes a second greenway access in Westport near the Allergan factory, and, just south of Castlebar, where the new N5 intersects with the old Castlebar to Westport road at a roundabout — at this point people walking and cycling have to cross the dual carriageway unaided.

IrishCycle.com asked Mayo County Council a set of questions on the issue in May, ahead of the road opening, but the council did not clarify if there is a plan to finish the underpass route in Westport which would avoid greenway using having to cross the new road at-grade.

A local councillor, Cllr Peter Flynn, has gotten so frustrated with the council’s inaction that he took to social media yesterday to ask people to write to the council’s CEO calling on him to act.

Cllr Flynn said: “The new N5 road has been a fantastic addition but to build the section around the Newport Road without a clearly marked segregated entrance/exit to the Great Western Greenway which is one of our greatest tourism and amenity assets in the county beggars belief.”

“The temporary sign saying ‘Greenway’ the other side of a very busy roundabout would be funny except for the safety implications for cyclists and pedestrians,” he said.

He said: “I have correspondence going back 2 years asking for clarity on the access. Like so many things to do with the Council, no one is responsible, no drawing is to be had and no deadline is available.”

Cllr Flynn said: “I would urge you all to write to the CEO of Mayo County Council Kevin Kelly who is ultimately responsible for every part of the Council requesting details of how and when will this serious flaw will be addressed.”

Cllr Flynn said that the CEO’s email address is KKelly@MayoCoCo.ie.

Kieran Ryan from local group 15-Minute Westport, which advocates for sustainable transport in and around the West Mayo town outlined how two different access points to the greenway in the town are now affected.

“People are finding it very difficult to navigate the new road junctions, especially visitors who are trying to find the Great Western Greenway,” said Ryan.

He said: “There is no safe crossing point for greenway users across the new N5 bypass, even though the road was officially opened by Leo Varadkar a week ago. It’s not really good enough in this day and age.”

On the other access point which now seems to be blocked permanently, Ryan added: “One of the popular greenway loop routes around the town, from Carrowbeg Estate to Attireesh, was cut off for the duration of the construction of the new bypass and that route has not reopened at all. This needs to be explained.”

This second access point to the greenway which was cut off is near the Allergan factory. It includes a steep hill but is still seen as an important part of Westport’s walking and cycling network.

It is now blocked by a farm gate despite signs which were posted in 2021 saying the route would only be closed until the N5 project was finished. Unlike the other greenway access point, there is no half-finished underpass built here.

On May 17, IrishCycle.com asked Mayo County Council a set of questions on the new northwestern bypass of Westport and the lack of greenway access that doesn’t involve crossing the new 100km/h road.

The questions were received by the council but have gone unanswered to date.

The questions included why 100km/h was chosen for a road so close to the town and with walking and cycling routes along it, including part of the Great Western Greenway, especially given that planning documents show a ‘design speed’ of the road is marked as just 85km/h. Roads are usually given speed limits under their design speed.

Even if the speed limit was deemed appropriate, Transport Infrastructure Ireland guidelines outline how the absolute minimum horizontal separation between walking and cycling paths and a 100km/h road is 1.5 metres. Mayo County Council has left less space in the green areas between the greenway and the carriageway.

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