Letterkennny is facing dire consequences from unprecedented traffic gridlock amid plans to double the town’s population without finishing the county’s “biggest infrastructure project”.
That is the warning that emerged from Donegal County Council’s monthly meeting of the Letterkenny Municipal District this week.
It heard of plans to increase Letterkenny’s population from its current figure of around 19,000 to 39,000 by 2034 – sparking councillors’ warnings for the future of the town.
They revealed fears that the vital Bonagee Link Road, which is proposed to ease congestion in Letterkenny, will not open until the year 2031 at the earliest and will be out-of-date by then because it would be insufficient to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population.
The controversy at the meeting on Tuesday was raised again yesterday when Fianna Fail Cllr Liam Blaney claimed “we are back at the drawing board” – despite the link road first being proposed 30 years ago by the late Donegal County councillor Bernard McGlinchey.
The Bonagee Link Road is estimated to cost €20m and has already ran up fees worth millions of euro in consultations, plus a share of €5m that was allocated towards progressing it last year.
The full version of this story appeared in today's Letterkenny Post, which is a sister publication of Donegal Now.
Cllr Blaney told the Letterkenny Post: “This is the most important piece of infrastructure that’s going to get done in Letterkenny for the next 50 years.
“There was a reply from the council [on Tuesday] about 2022 [for the Bonagee Link Road], but I think the council’s looking at 2025, although I believe we’re looking at 2027/28 and maybe 2030/31 or later.
“I hope I’m wrong and I hope it won’t take that long. We have to get what’s right for Letterkenny.
“The council’s chief executive told us that he expects the town of Letterkenny will grow by 20,000, for the population to increase by 20,000, over the next 15 years.
“At a minimum, that’s a doubling of the population. Are they going to build high rises to accommodate everybody?
“If that population increase happens, the [previous] proposed route [for the Bonagee Link Road] would be sitting in the middle of the town and would be no benefit to the people of the town.
“We need the Bonagee Link Road but we also need a ring road. I fear that the Bonagee Link Road is not going to be enough on its own. It all needs to start now. How long is it going to take?”
Cllr Blaney added: “All the plans that were there before [for the Bonagee Link Road] are already scrapped. They are saying now that they are outdated.
“This is what’s holding up the project. Whether there is a deliberate intention to stall the whole thing, I don’t know. I have my doubts about what’s going on.”
He continued: “We’re being told now that the route selection still has to be sorted out.”
The controversial delays to the link road was raised at the Letterkenny Municipal District meeting by Independent Cllr Dessie Shiels, who asked the council for an estimated finish time if funding was approved immediately.
He was told by the council that it would take “at least four years and potentially longer in the event of legal challenges”, meaning the year 2022.
However, councillors Blaney, Ciaran Brogan, and Gerry McMonagle indicated an expected finish time of 10 years or more.
Cllr Blaney said: “It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that it is in the programme for 2030.”
Cllr Brogan warned: “If we’re being realistic, I think it will another five years after 2021.”
Cllr McMonagle said: “We have to accept that it’s going to be 2021 before it’s funded and 10 years before a car drives over it.”
Cllr Shiels said: “The story of the Bonagee Link Road is that millions have been spent, but nothing has been done.
“We’re into another year and to say that the traffic is a problem in Letterkenny is an understatement.”
The council told Cllr Shiels: “In the event that funding was made available for the Bonagee Link, there are a series of steps that must be taken for a project of this scale before the road could be opened to traffic.
“Typically, for a project of this size, these steps will take at least four years and potentially longer in the event of legal challenges.”
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