Birdhill-Ballina R494 to be closed next month for preparatory work for the new Shannon crossing.

Road closure for scheme advance works

Early preparatory work for the changes to the road between Birdhill and Ballina to align with the new Shannon crossing near Ballina is to commence next month.

Tipperary County Council have announced that they intend closing the R494 between Birdhill and Ballina from February 15th for a period up to March 1st to facilitate the advance works for the Killaloe Bypass, Shannon Bridge & R494 Improvement Scheme. Alternative routes for travel between Birdhill and Ballina will be signposted.

The detailed design and sign-off on technical compliance is now in the final stages of completion and publication of the tender for the main scheme is imminent.

Seán Lenihan, Senior Engineer, Clare County Council, has confirmed that Irish and international contractors have formally expressed an interest in the scheme and a shortlist of six suitably experienced contractors will be invited to tender for the main works contract over the coming weeks. The project team consists of Clare County Council as lead authority along with Tipperary County Council, the Department of Transport (DoT) and technical advisors, Roughan O’Donovan originally, and, more latterly, RPS, have been working on this important piece of infrastructure for the Mid-West over the past number of years.

Work on the major scheme is expected to commence later this year and the construction period is expected to take three years thereafter, although in recent years major road schemes have tended to be completed ahead of schedule, due to the efficiency of experienced contractors.

The advance work consists of bat roost construction, invasive species treatment, archaeological investigations, utility diversions and enabling works, including site clearance, demolition, fencing, etc. It is scheduled for progress over the spring/summer of 2021.

Clare County Council and its agents have made significant progress in completing the land acquisition process with the majority of agreements completed or in the final stages thereof. A scheme-wide notice to enter to facilitate the advanced works was issued to all effected property owners in mid-November.

Mr Lenihan said: “Due to the scale of the project and construction complexities associated with any such crossing of a major river like the Shannon, a three-stage procurement process was adopted.” He added: “The first stage commenced in December 2019 when a Prior Information Notice (PIN) was published to advise the market that the project was preparing for tender stage. The second stage of the procurement process was completed in recent weeks following expressions of interest being sought through eTenders, a number of which were received from national and international contractors in late August 2020.”

The expressions of interest in the scheme have been assessed by an Independent Assessment Board, following which a shortlist of six suitably experienced contractors has been compiled, to be invited to tender.

“It is expected that this third stage of the tender process will commence early in 2021 with contract award and construction commencing, subject to DoT approval, late summer, early autumn 2021,” Mr Lenihan said.

The commencement of the advance works has been welcomed by local Labour councillor Fiona Bonfield. “The majority of this work includes the clearance of a number of trees, which is why this work has to go ahead at this time, otherwise the overall project will be delayed further,” Cllr Bonfield stated. “At long last this major project is starting and great credit is due to local TD Alan Kelly, who during his time in Government secured the funding for it.”

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