A €140 million road upgrade will today mark the end of a “nightmare” stretch on which 30 people were killed.
The replacement of the old Dublin-Sligo N4, once dubbed one of the most lethal in Ireland by a coroner, is predicted to result in 27 fewer fatalities and almost 1,000 less injuries by 2051.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin will officially open the 15km Collooney to Castlebaldwin N4 in Co Sligo in what is seen as both a safety and economic “game changer” for the county.
He will also remember the 30 victims who perished along the treacherous old stretch over three decades, at a stone plaque erected by N4 Action Group campaigners.
“The new road marks the end of a nightmare,” said Aisling Tighe, Principal of 70-pupil Cloghogue National School outside Castlebaldwin.
“For years, we have been looking at white crosses on the road and many people in the community know who they belong to.
“One is in memory of someone I went to school with and every time you see it, it brings home how dangerous the road was.
“She was a few years younger than me and I remember the shock of hearing that she died so close to home.”
Such were the dangers posed by the old road, children could not safely cycle to school – now Cloghogue NS has applied for funding for a 10-bay bike shelter, anticipating a major increase in cycling, walking and community involvement.
The entire community is benefitting - an off-road greenway is constructed along the eastern parallel road for 2.5km, beginning in Tobberbride and joining the old N4 at Doorly Townland.
A segregated cycleway is also being examined along the entire length of the old N4.
“As a small school, we are always struggling for numbers and we’re going to lose a teacher this year. We’re hoping more people will move to the area now that it is quicker to get to Sligo,” said Ms Tighe.
“You’ll get the beauty of the countryside and you have the accessibility of being closer to Sligo.”
Lack of safe overtaking opportunities, poor visibility and alignment and up to 18 junctions per kilometre, were among the factors which led to multiple collisions on the old road.
In addition to vastly reducing the death toll, the new Type 2 dual carriageway, with a 100kph speed limit, will shorten journey times and provide an economic lifeline by opening up access to Sligo from Dublin.
“Removing cars and trucks from the old N4 and designating it a local road with a new cycleway, makes local communities safer and enables people to choose walking or cycling for short local journeys,” said Cllr Paul Taylor, Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council.
“It also has the potential to be a game changer by helping to boost the local economy, bring jobs to the region and make Sligo a better and safer place to live, travel and work in.”
An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said the project is about “enhancing people’s quality of life”.
“It will significantly improve road safety for local communities and for everyone travelling between Sligo and Dublin,” he said.
“The new road will also be a catalyst for sustainable regional growth and development, encouraging further investment and employment opportunities in Sligo and the North West. It will enhance the quality of life of this community, making this an even more attractive destination for investment and a place to work and live.”
Chief Executive of Sligo County Council, Martin Lydon, said the N4 will position the county as a more attractive location for economic development and encourage future investment, job creation and tourism.
Cormac O’Rourke, Chairman of Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), said the project is a prime example of the upgrades needed to the national roads network to enhance safety and improve efficiency under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan.
The two-and-a-half-year scheme included the construction of 12 bridges and the acquisition of 200 hectares of land and is one of the first National Roads Projects delivered under Project Ireland 2040’s Regional Connectivity objective.
Traffic can enter and exit the dual carriageway at both ends and at a grade separated junction at the approximate midpoint.