The lead engineer on the new Cockhill Bridge project has said he is hopeful the project will be completed and opened towards the end of 2017.
Seamus Hopkins said they were hoping to start work within the next four to six weeks.
The Senior Executive Engineer with Donegal County Council, was speaking at the cutting of the first sod of the project at Cockhill on Wednesday morning.
The government awarded €3m last year for the project after a major grass-roots campaign stretching back 65 years. The funding will be used to construct a new bridge across the Crana River at Cockhill, linking on to existing roads on either side.
Mr Hopkins told the Journal: “We’re hoping to have it finished by the end of 2017, so we are looking at about 18 months. It’s a 3m euro project. It will be a challenging but we are anxious to make progress on it. It will have huge benefits. It is on the Wild Atlantic Way; it will help tourism, it will help commerce and will be of great benefit.”
Mayor of the Inishowen Municipal District, Fianna Fáil Councillor Rena Donaghey, told those gathered at the event: “This is a very, very important day not only for the people of Cockhill, the people of Buncrana, the people of Inishowen, but also much further afield. With the Wild Atlantic Way and Malin Head and all the happenings up there, this is a great day.”
Speaking about what people can expect once the project is finished, Colr. Donaghey added: “The new bridge at Cockhill will be a single-span, concrete structure. It will be a much wider and safer bridge for all road users. The bridge and the approach road will have an improved alignment and a footpath along both sides of the bridge so it will be very, very different and very, very safe.
“The bridge itself will be built to modern design standards and incorporate many safety features such as street lighting and a safety barrier. That’s very, very important for today. The children will be able to cross this bridge safely.
“The existing bridge will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists.”
She added: “This is a much needed project. I’m also delighted the existing bridge, which has formed such an important part of our architectural heritage will continue to function as a pedestrian bridge.
“This new bridge is a very important part of the Outer Relief Road plan for Buncrana. Cockhill is a very vibrant area. We have the Parish Church, a very large school, a pre-school, the youth club, three football pitches. At the moment, this is the only crossing we have here to the facilities there.
“I want to thank landowners who allowed this to happen and engineers, design team and everybody involved within the County Council.”
Mayor Donaghey also paid tribute to the late Charlie O’Donnell. She said: “There is one person who is not here today, Charlie O’Donnell God rest him. We would have had many meetings about the bridge and I’m just sorry he isn’t here today, but I am sure he is looking down and at it from up above.”