Derry's £85m Buncrana Road widening project now under review
The Department for Infrastructure has confirmed that the long-awaited Buncrana Road dualling project has been put under review.
In a presentation before Derry City & Strabane District Council, Divisional Roads Manager Daniel Healy confirmed the 4.4km A2 route from the Donegal border at Bridgend to Pennyburn is currently being reviewed "to ensure it aligns with the Department’s priorities for future transport contained in the Regional Strategic Transportation Network Transport Plan before continuing to develop the scheme design towards publication of the draft statutory orders”.
Councillors also received an update on this and several other infrastructure projects for Derry City and Strabane District Council 2022 and elected representatives were warned generally ‘difficult decisions may have to be made' due to funding constraints in the time ahead.
The Buncrana Road project was one of several large-scale road improvement projects mentioned during the report on road maintenance, improvement works and active travel schemes in 2021/22 and those planned for 2022/23.
Divisional Roads Manager, Mr Daniel Healy said that the Buncrana Road project had ‘moved on significantly’ over recent years but confirmed it was being reviewed.
He added that any draft orders in future would require Ministerial approval and said that a time-frame for delivering this A2 scheme would depend on several factors including a potential public inquiry, and the future availability of funding as no multi-year budget was in place at present for the department.
Mr Healy said that in the absence of an Executive, the Department of Finance (DoF) has provided DfI with contingency planning budgets, for both resource and capital funding.
"With the uncertainty around budgets it is important to monitor all activities within the constrained funding available going forward and difficult decisions may need to be made to re-align activities within funding levels as the year progresses.
"Despite these budget uncertainties, the Department will continue to develop local transport and safety schemes and maintenance programmes to enhance safety, improve traffic progression and provide measures for pedestrians and cyclists.”
Continuing, Mr Healy said: “Minister O’Dowd is keen to progress the development of a number of Strategic Road Improvement Schemes. The A5 Western Transport Corridor continues its progress through the statutory processes with the Planning Appeals Commission due to reconvene later this year or early next to address the Environmental Statement Addendum.
"Construction of A6 Dungiven to Drumahoe dualling scheme is progressing well with the earthworks, all twenty-two structures and pavement construction along the main carriageway now substantially complete. Significant progress has also been made with the installation of culverts, drainage, access tracks and utility diversions. The Department is working closely with the contractor to agree an opening date.
“The Department completed a significant programme of resurfacing works across the Council area in 2021/22 including the £1.3million resurfacing of Skeoge Link. The Department successfully awarded new asphalt contracts for the Strabane area on 28 June 2022 and for the Derry area on 13 September which will enable further resurfacing schemes in 2022/23.
“The Department has continued its commitment to the delivery of active travel schemes across the north and to making walking, wheeling and cycling a safer and more attractive option for people getting around. The upgrading of a shared footway/ cycleway Glenshane Road from Drumahoe Road towards Drumahoe District park in 2021/22 and the Department is currently preparing plans to deliver upgrades along Carrakeel Drive, Maydown in 2022/23.
“I am pleased to confirm that the second tranche of the new part-time 20mph speed limit at schools are programmed to be operational at nine schools by end September 2022 which follows on from the nine schools that benefited from the initiative in 2021.”
Total capital expenditure on street lighting during the 2021/22 year amounted to approximately £1.7million and included both full system replacement and energy efficient LED lantern schemes. Among the areas that received LED lighting was Craigavon Bridge underdeck and a number of zebra crossings. Further proposed replacement schemes are planned in 2022/23.
Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue asked for an update on a study on a safety crossing in the Foyle Road / Lone Moor area.
“To get across a very, very busy road there is is no safe crossing,” she said, adding that there was a park, stadium and a lot of building work going on in that area.
Various Councillors expressed appreciation for all the work that has been undertaken over the past year despite the constraints and the lack of an Executive.
Colr. Logue also urged the Department to look at the terrible flooding in this area, while also raising concerns about eroded road markings at a loading bay in Shipquay Street, which local people have reported getting tickets for parking in despite not knowing it was reserved for commercial loading.
Sinn Féin Colr. Christopher Jackson said that DfI and the entire public service was being punished because of one party not willing to form an Executive. “Hopefully within a very short period of time we will be in a situation where a proper government is formed, a budget is set and departments can plan ahead properly.”
Several elected representatives including Colr. Jackson and SDLP Councillor John Boyle, DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney and UUP Alderman Derek Hussey raised a range of issues including the need for regular gully clearing, particularly given recent flooding episodes across the region, as well as street lighting outages, ‘piecemeal' tarring of roads locally, winter preparations and the need for salt/grit boxes for various local areas.