Transport Minister Shane Ross will officially open the new Gort to Tuam motorway to traffic on Wednesday week – almost five months ahead of schedule.
The official opening of the 57 kilometre stretch will take place at the Kiltiernan junction – near Ardrahan – after which it will allow vehicular traffic for the very first time.
Director of Service for Roads, Michael Timmins informed a meeting of Tuam Municipal Council that the opening would take place at 11am on the motorway itself and then it would be cleared to allow for the first traffic to use the new route.
The new Tuam bypass will also open at the same time and that is expected to bring an end to the daily traffic logjam through the town.
The €550 million project began over two years ago and is coming in well ahead of its scheduled opening which was due to take place around the middle of next February.
Mr Timmins said that once the official opening takes place, everyone will be cleared off the road so that the motorway can take its first ever traffic. He was addressing members of Tuam Municipal Council earlier this week.
Chairman Cllr Donagh Killilea said that while it had been a long time coming, it was a very welcome piece of infrastructure and one that would benefit the whole West of Ireland.
And in an unusual move, the Fianna Fail councillor paid a glowing tribute to former TD for Galway East Paddy McHugh who he said had pushed for the motorway and Tuam bypass while in office.
However, Fine Gael’s Cllr Pete Roche said that it was “a good government” that enabled the motorway and bypass projects to proceed but he has major issues with regard to signage on the N63 Galway to Roscommon road.
The N63 now crosses the new motorway in the Annagh Hill area where three new roundabouts have been provide over the past year or sor.
But Cllr Roche makes the point that anyone coming off the motorway at this junction will face confusion as the roundabouts are devoid of signage apart from one indicating ‘Baile Chlair’ with no English translation.
“The only other signs you see are ones for Roscommon and Longford but there is no reference to the likes of Abbeyknockmoy, Moylough or Mountbellew which is an absolute disgrace,” he said.
It is not the first time that the same councillor has raised this issue and he said that he cannot understand why adequate signage was not put in place to direct motorists to local towns and villages.
He said that for motorists travelling along the N63 from the Galway direction, there are no signs to indicate villages along the route. He said that it will be particularly confusing for those coming off the motorway and added that not every car had a sat nav.
Director of Services Mr Timmins said that a period of time was needed before such signs were erected as he too was anxious to avoid any confusion for motorists using the motorway.
Cllr Shaun Cunniffe agreed that the absence of signs could not be tolerated. “I pity tourists travelling along this road and the only sign they see is ‘Baile Chlair’. We really have to be sensible about this,” he added.