'Worst' road in Kerry gets funds at last

Full reconstruction of the treacherous R556 Dale Road is finally on the cards after years of campaigning by residents who are literally living in the shadow of the constant threat it poses.

It's a raised causeway road with no hard shoulder, and it has subsided heavily to the point where vehicles have to slow to a crawl to pass it safely. And with no hard shoulder, there's no room for safe evasive action - a fact discovered by many motorists who miraculously emerge unscathed after their cars plummeted off the road in the numerous accidents there over the years.

There was widespread relief last week when locals learned the Dale Road was finally granted funding - of €300,000 - towards the design of a safe new road and towards initiating the land-acquisition process.

It doesn't remove the threat overnight, but this week's funding announced by the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport Minister is expected to lead to the imminent reconstruction of the entire road, subject to the planning process. It's expected the road could be built as soon as 2020.

"Getting it recognised as the worst road in Kerry was crucial," local County Councillor Aoife Thornton (FG) said this week, welcoming the news.

"I am delighted that the Minister and the Department has granted this funding following KCC's recent step to make an application in respect of the R556, a step that I had fought for since my election to Kerry County Council in 2014."

As Cathaoirleach of the Listowel Municipal Area, Cllr Thornton facilitated the biggest deputation of locals to have ever come before the district authority early last year.

It was led by the recently departed Eamonn Fitzmaurice of Ballinclogher, who told the Council the long-running danger posed by the road was tantamount to a breach of locals' human rights.

His message hit home, with the road given emergency status. Transport Minister Shane Ross walked part of it shortly thereafter, meeting with Minister Griffin, Cllr Thornton and engineers on the Dale Road subject last November.

So long was the battle to get the road addressed that many locals had simply given up hope of funding.

"I was actually canvassing around the area last week, and there was one householder who bet me there would be no funding announced this year at all, such was the extent to which confidence locally has dwindled," she said. "I told him I was very confident though and suggested the figure of €50. He said that was too high, so we went for a bet of €5 instead!"

Cllr Thornton is also betting on a relatively quick delivery of the project, now calling on the Council to expedite the design and planning. She paid tribute to the many residents and local firms who backed the campaign - with 1,500 signatures gathered on a petition last year.

Minister Ross was presented with urgent appeals from the numerous companies dependant on the access of the R556 at November's meeting. Minister Griffin described the announcement from his department last week as 'hugely significant'.