Following uproar from Menlo residents, a proposal to close Coolough Road for a fortnight has been shelved and instead the works will be carried out throughout the night in a last-minute compromise.
The road closure sparked predictions of traffic chaos at peak times as motorists were forced onto the Headford Road. Residents and the parents of children attending Scoil Bhríde in Menlo would have had to endure delays of at least an hour as they detoured onto Monument Road to avoid the closure.
Galway City Mayor Frank Fahy estimated that upwards of 1,000 vehicles use this stretch of road during the morning rush between locals, school parents and rat-runners avoiding the Headford Road.
Contractors GMC Utilities are laying electrical cables on the road for Galway Wind Park between Roscahill and Oughterard. They had been operating a signalised one-way system on Coolough Road since the beginning of February during the works.
Last week they applied to close the road to lay cables at An Moneen, a bridge halfway on the road for two weeks, from April 11 to 25.
A spokesman for the Menlo Residents Association said the application would be strongly opposed.
“We’re wondering why this can’t be done at night or at weekends when most people would not have to go to work or school. It will add on at least an hour to our journeys to town. We weren’t contacted about this at all and the contractors had told us they would keep us informed about all developments,” he stated.
Cllr Fahy, who is a resident of Monument Road, said it was a step too far to close the road altogether.
He had been in contact with City Council staff over alternative solutions – do the work at night or at weekends when the traffic is lighter; carry it out during school holidays to avoid disruption for the national school pupils as well as students catching buses to four secondary schools or lay the pipes in the adjoining land avoiding the road altogether, some of which is commonage partly owned by the Council.
“Knowing the people of Menlo – if they do not come up with a solution that is more amenable – they’ll be quite prepared to stand in front of them and tell them where to go,” he exclaimed.
“We’re not opposed to it, but a solution that causes the minimal inconvenience must be pursued. We’re reasonable people but we don’t take things lying down.”
Hours before the deadline for submissions on the road closure, the companies agreed to a last-minute compromise. In a statement from the energy giant SSE and GMC Utilities, they said they fully understood the genuine concerns expressed by community representatives about the impact of a two-week road closure.
“To sincerely address these concerns, GMC Utilities and SSE have agreed to undertake the necessary roadworks at this location at night time (between 7pm to 6am) so as to ensure that daily traffic is not impacted by the road closure.
“SSE and GMC Utilities understand these disruptions affect the lives of everyone in the community, and we will continue to work always with local residents, community representatives and the local authority to minimise the impact of these disruptions as much as possible.”
The statement added that it had also addressed concerns expressed about the safety measures in place and was implementing additional daily inspections and audits of the roadworks over and above the regular monitoring already in place.
“This will ensure that any necessary improvements to the safety measures in place can be undertaken as quickly as possible.”
The project to connect the new Galway Wind Park to the national electricity grid involves laying 21km of underground cabling from west of Moycullen to the existing Salthill-Screebe substation and then the substation in Ballybrit on the eastern side of the city.
The work is expected to cause disruption until next August and is ongoing in four locations.