Glimmer of hope for residents living on lethal road
Minister for Transport Shane Ross has accepted a request to meet with a delegation over growing concerns about the fast deteriorating state of a road already considered the most dangerous in North Kerry, if not in the entire county.
Nothing less than the lives of motorists and residents are at stake in the long saga of the Dale to Rathscannell R556 road - a stretch of the main regional road between Abbeydorney and Ballyduff that is the bane of drivers' lives and the scene of countless accidents.
Built on a causeway above the bog, the road has subsided to the point where cars are forced to slow to a crawl to avoid crashing. But the sharp gradient on each side of the road has led to countless accidents over the years with cars slipping off.
1,500 locals signed a petition in recent weeks calling urgently for the reconstruction of the notorious stretch of road. The existence of the petition is understood to have played no small part in impressing on Minister Ross the need for the vital meeting.
It was organised by Fine Gael County Councillor Aoife Thornton.
"The petition was presented to Minister of State Brendan Griffin who informed Minister Ross of the scale of concern that exists over this section of road," Councillor Thornton told The Kerryman.
"It's widely seen as the worst road in North Kerry, with a lot of near misses over the years. All councillors in the district agree it's the worst road and our first priority for repair. It's an absolute nightmare to drive as it has subsided to such a degree that the surface has become dangerously undulating." There is meanwhile no margin along the narrow causeway track, making life almost impossible for residents trying to exit onto the R556 amid heavy traffic.
Local woman Kathleen Ward told The Kerryman she feels as if she takes her life in her hands using the only route into and out of her home: "The amount of times my husband had to go out and pull cars out of the ditches over the years is unreal," she said.
"It's a nightmare of a road. The traffic is very heavy and I find it so difficult to drive safely out onto the road. The difference it would make to our lives if it was fixed would be incredible," Ms Ward said.
Hopes are tentatively growing of a positive outcome ahead of the meeting with the Minister, at which Cllr Thornton will present the petition. Kerry County Council is currently assessing the road with a view to a potential route design in the near future.
"Lives are the priority but the economy of the region is also at stake. I canvassed local businesses to hear that many are having a real problem getting suppliers to travel it anymore, and it's also a hugely-important feeder route to the Wild Atlantic Way in Ballybunion," Cllr Thornton said.
"I'm calling on the council to commit some of their own discretionary funding now to the design of the project, but a commitment is required from the Department to allow the project progress as soon as the design is complete."
Cllr Thornton pointed out that the job would not amount to a new road scheme, but the completion of the second phase of a project that was abandoned over a decade ago. Phase one, the true Dale Road beyond Ballinclogher Cross, was completed in the boom before the Rathscannell section was shelved.