Play your part in the shaping of a new Galway

The present and the future have an annoying habit of conspiring to show just how silly we might have been in the past. Armed with foresight and hindsight, something that might have seemed like a good idea at some stage in the past is ridiculed by the present and put right by the future.

In Galway, there are many changes which were made for the then betterment of the city and county, which, if we had our time all over again we would probably revisit. The greatest minds of any era, to be fair to them, were probably of that era.

100 years ago, a traumatised world did not know what was ahead of it and decisions were made for bottom-line reasons. One of those no doubt was the decision that was taken in 1935 to shut down the Galway to Clifden Railway Line. If it were open today, there is no doubt that it would have become a sort of a rail version of the Wild Atlantic Way. Trains would be puffing their way through the mountains and out to the capital of Connemara. It would energise both where the trains come from and where they go. It would bring daily changes to the lives of those who would live alongside it...and there would be people living alongside it, as it would have opened up so many possibilities.

At the time, the steel bridge was sold for scrap, but the foundations (piers and abutments ) still stand today and have sparked questions from many visitors to the city over the years. What, when, why.....

However, but in this new era of recycle and reuse, Galway City Council, the National Transport Authority and Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (through the URDF fund ) are proposing to reuse the existing piers and abutments to construct a new pedestrian and cycle bridge.

It will serve many purposes, but its main one will be to connect the University of Galway to the heart of town; the merging of town and gown that the college elders are keen to encourage. And rightly so.

The new pedestrian and cycle bridge at Newtownsmyth have shown us what is possible when modern design is allowed to merge with what was there.

There are three options being considered by the proposers of this new project, and one of them is emerging as the preferred bid. To be honest, you can see why as it is option with the ripple steel effect that will allow the bridge to seem at home above the waters below.

The three options were all assessed on grounds of ecological and environmental impact; health and safety and ease of construction. Each of the options poses challenges in one or other of these areas, but when complete, the bridge will add to the new spaces of Galway and create a new public realm; a new constant landmark or location in the ongoing movie that is this city.

100 years ago, when the civic fathers were on the cusp of deciding to remove that bridge, they were not to know that a century on, their haste would be in question. To ensure that this new bridge becomes the intellectual property of all of us, make sure you play your part in the decision to create whatever option is chosen.

A detailed document on the options and some of the backstory of the project is available on the City Council website and your opinions are being sought for the next four weeks. On April 11, the consultation process will be complete and the information gathered will impact on the scale and the delivery time of the project.

However, it is a project that probably will be completed in the next few years. Over time, many millions of litres of water will pass under it; Many millions of people will walk and cycle over it, and get a different view of the place they have come to visit, or study.

Let’s get this bridge done and have those abutments earning their keep again in the way they were meant to; holding our weight and helping us get from place to another.

 

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