CLARE County Council is set to spend an estimated €16.5m, including €2m on a tunnel for pedestrians, at the country's most popular natural tourist attraction at the Cliffs of Moher.
The spend also includes a €6m upgrade on visitor centre facilities; €4m on 'admission, parking and traffic management'; €2m on Cliff Walk improvements and €2.5m on a waste water treatment plant upgrade.
The current visitor centre was designed to accommodate up to 800,000 visitors per annum and last year, a record 1.6 million paid to enter the visitor attraction.
The tender documentation says as a result, a number of items must be addressed to ensure the health and safety of all visitors in the unique environment while the Cliffs of Moher continues with its 2040 strategy.
The Cliffs 2040 strategy team is currently preparing an architectural masterplan for future development on the site for the next 20 years.
Now, as part of the planned €16.5m project, the council has confirmed that Dublin-based Henchion Reuter Architects has secured a €1.93m contract to provide integrated design team services while Tom McNamara & Partners has secured a €264,758 contract to provide quantity surveyor work.
The €6m upgrade to the visitor facilities includes an additional 700-800 sq m of visitor services centre to include catering, retail and toilets.
Currently, visitors using the car park have to walk across a busy tourist route leading to Doolin to access the Cliffs site.
Now, the council is looking to spend €2m on an underpass "to improve pedestrian safety at what can be a dangerous intersection... particularly during periods of dense fog when driver visibility is significantly reduced".
The council says there is an opportunity at the underpass "to create a gateway experience to the attraction, build an expectation and heighten the visitor's sense of arrival at a world-class attraction".
The council is also seeking to increase the size of the car park by 40pc from 468 to 650 car spaces. The council says the car park is currently over capacity during peak times.
Long tailbacks along the R478 can build up quickly "which is both dangerous and inconvenient for visitors and locals alike". Additional parking would prevent tailbacks and improve traffic flow along the main road.