Work will begin this year on a major €18m investment to upgrade and improve safety on one of the most important roads in Donegal, it has been confirmed.

 Minister Joe McHugh has announced that a new section of the N56  - between Letterkenny and Kilmacrennan - will now cost €18M and include cycle lanes which will eventually link Illistrin to the Greenway project.

The Donegal Government TD had lobbied for the new stretch of road from Coolboy to Kilmacrennan, removing the notorious Blue Banks bends.

The decision will allow a new watermain from Lough Salt to Letterkenny to be laid at the same time as the new road.

“I am delighted to announce that Transport Infrastructure Ireland has decided to add cycle lanes in both directions along the new 3.1km road,” said Minister McHugh.

“The cycle lanes will be extended from Coolboy to Illistrin which is a fantastic initiative.”

More than 6,500 vehicles use the route every day. The overall cost of the project with a wider road and the cycle lanes is now estimated at €18M.

“The new initiative will allow cyclists to use the new lanes all the way to Kilmacrennan from Illistrin, and from there, they can access both Glenveagh and the Greenway from Termon to Falcarragh which I helped to fund as Gaeltacht Minister,” said the Donegal TD.

“The removal of the Blue Banks bends has been talked about for more than three decades and I’m delighted this is now going to happen and is being delivered by this Government.

“The addition of the cycle lanes is important for both road safety and for tourism in the county.

"Greenways and cycle ways are an important part of our infrastructure and are being driven by incredible community groups and social enterprise organisations all the way from Inishowen to Burtonport. I want to acknowledge the work being done on the ground by them.

“With further infrastructure spending in the years ahead under this Government, it is something I will prioritise for Donegal as a valuable resource for both local people and for tourists.”

Minister McHugh says he has now asked Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to re-examine the junctions at Illistrin for road safety improvements as part of the new project.

“That part of the N56 (Mountaintop to Illistrin) was completed in 2009 and I know local people including business owners and parents of children at Illistrin National School have always felt that the new road design didn’t fully consider the issue of access, especially in the mornings and afternoons,” said McHugh.

“There have been a number of incidents there. And I know how difficult it is for parents dropping off and picking up children from school.

“This new N56 development is an opportunity to fix those problems and I’ve asked TII to look again at how this can be done.”

McHugh says he is aware of a belief among locals that a new roundabout at the junction would help calm traffic and act as an accecss point for cyclists, parents and other road users.

“Perhaps that is the best solution and I hope something will be done.”

McHugh confirmed that tenders for the new road will be issued in four weeks’ time with work due to begin before the end of this year. The new Blue Banks road – minus the bends – will be completed by mid-2019.

“There has been a lot of speculation on the timeline. Work starts later this year,” added McHugh.

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