Hundreds of local people this week gathered to look at the plans to widen the Buncrana Road to four lanes.
A range of views were expressed by those who came along to the event at DaVinci’s on Tuesday to look over the proposals for the main Derry City to Donegal road.
Under the plans, the entire 4km road will be dualled to four lanes, with new and revamped roundabouts and new access roads.
Fresh traffic surveys have found that there are now 24,000 vehicles a day passing through the Branch area of the Buncrana Road.
Despite some scepticism from some of those attending that the long-awaited project will happen, David McKinley, Project Sponsor with Department for Infrastructure, said that the response had been largely positive.
Among the key infrastructure included are new roundabouts at the Buncrana Road junctions with Elagh Business Park, Springtown Road and Racecourse Road.
There will also be ‘left-in, left-out’ only access from various areas adjoining Buncrana Road, including Templegrove, local retail units, The Hawthorns, Upper Galliagh Road, Whitehouse Retail Park, Whitehouse Park and Benview Road.
Redesigned Roundabouts at Skeoge Link, Templegrove Road and Pennyburn junctions are planned, while there will be no direct access from Farren Park, and left only access to Ardnashee from Culmore Road.
There is also direct access from St John’s Park onto Buncrana Road.
Mr McKinley said it was hoped that journeys which are currently taking up to 20 minutes to drive between Bridgend and Pennyburn Roundabout, will take five to six minutes once the works are completed.
He said that former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazard had made funding available in 2016 to progress the current A2 preparatory work. “We don’t have the funding to build it, but we have the funding to take it forward in terms of publishing draft orders, direction orders, a Public Inquiry. We would like to see a Public Inquiry and Direction Orders within two years, which takes us to 2020. It is then down to the availability of funding. It will cost £50m to £60m. That could come in one single package or could come in phases.”
Mr. McKinley said that given the disruption likely and work needed to deal with water, electricity and other pipelines and infrastructure, the construction phase could take two and a half years.
The plans have been amended from previous proposals, which meant less land would be needed, and vesting of properties has been reduced from around 19 to 11. It is understood the properties potentially affected are in the Collon Terrace area. The proposals also take into account the planned construction of social housing along the route at the H1 and H2 sites, as well as the recently approved plans for a Health Centre, supermarket and other infrastructure at the former Arntz factory site.
“The purpose of the scheme is to try and improve the journey times, restore the route to what it was, which is a trunk route. There are a lot of people actually avoiding the route at present,” Mr McKinley said.
One such motorist was Raymond McKenna from Foyle Spring, who said: “To me it looks pretty good. I know there are people who might not be able to turn into their houses they way they can now, they might have to travel a wee bit further, but I think for the good of everyone it would be a better situation.
“I actually avoid Pennyburn because sometimes it can take you 15 or 20 minutes to get through it and there are other ways of doing it. I do think looking at it, it would work.”
Joe Doherty from Ardnashee said he had concerns around a new access route for Ardnashee and Farren Park off Culmore Road just above Pennyburn Roundabout. Mr Doherty said the cul-de-sac area at the back of Ardnashee, which the new access road would come through, was currently a safe space where children gather to play. He said the plans were also likely to lead to increased volumes of traffic impacting on residents .
He also questioned why there was no plan to develop a road linking Buncrana Road and Northland Road via Pennyburn Industrial Estate.
Another resident of St John’s Park, which would, under the plans, share a new access with St Columb’s College, acknowledged that the road at present was “a nightmare”. He said that while the overall plans were likely to help address this, there may be congestion issues during the school runs in the morning.
Speaking at the event, SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said he was “delighted” to see people are enaging with the public consultation.“Buncrana Road is a game changer in my opinion in enhancing the economic footporint of the city.,” he said.
“It’s about getting it right. That is why today it’s important everyone has their say and have their views heard but also to see the plans on view, which will give people some hope this will be done.”