Engineers visit new route in the planning since 1971
It was 1971, and Fairport Convention, they of English Folk Rock Royalty, were set to take centre stage at the Showgrounds, home of the Bit O' Red, at the Sligo Sounds '71 festival. The event, it was said throughout the town, was a good thing for the 'young ones'.
That same year, the Sligo Western Distributor Road first made an appearance in the Sligo County Development Plan, promising to link Caltragh to Ballydoogan, within earshot of The Showgrounds, the venue for that summer's folk rock.
Now, almost 50 years later, the Western Distributor Road is nearing completion. Phase 2 of the scheme, which was granted planning in 2007, and commenced on site in November 2018, consists of 1.9km of single carriageway urban distributor road.
When it opens to traffic in July 2020 it will connect the Caltragh Junction on the existing N4 dual carriageway to the already constructed Phase 1 at Ballydoogan Road.
The scheme, which has a Total Scheme Budget of 18.5 million euro, will open up the southwest quadrant of Sligo City and Environs and facilitate the creation of a new 76 acre IDA Business Park, to be known as the 'Oakfield Business Park'. Construction on the new park, readily accessible off the N4 National Road and linking to Dublin via the ongoing N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin dual-carriageway scheme, is due to start on site in 2020 and hopes to attract a new phase of Foreign Direct Investment into the City.
Additionally, the scheme will enable the zoning of 190 acres of existing greenfield lands adjacent to the new distributor road to a medium/high-density residential designation, equating to a potential yield of 3,500 new housing units in the years ahead.
It was to the site of this new road scheme that the local Northwest branch of Engineers Ireland brought a group of engineers from the region, the lucky few able to grab a spot on the site visit before it was booked out, on a crisp December afternoon.
There, the engineers were chaperoned through the site by the Contractor delivering the scheme, SIAC Construction, and the resident project engineering team from Sligo County Council.
Standing on the new road, now kerbed and ready to be 'stoned', it was easy for one to imagine the 3,500 cars/vans and lorries that will peel off and merge onto the N4 at Caltragh each day, alleviating the congestion on the inner relief road, and providing a new artery between the existing IDA Business Park in Finisklin, the proposed IDA Oakfield Business Park, the greater west Sligo City/Strandhill area and the big smoke further down the N4.
The new road will be flanked on either side by 2m wide concrete footways (the first time extruded footpaths have been constructed in Ireland) and 2m wide cycleways, providing 'green' transport options for those using the link, taking up residence in the newly zoned land or working at the Oakfield Business Park.
A new bridge, over which the new road will cross the Sligo-Dublin rail line has had the beams craned in, providing Sligo with a modern crossing of the Sligo-Dublin railway line.
It is this engineers' opinion that this new piece of strategic infrastructure, long in the planning, which facilitates the creation of key commercial, industrial and residential assets for the city, will create a longer lasting legacy for the 'young ones' than Sligo Sounds '71.