Cookstown bypass back on the agenda again

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

COOKSTOWN'S long-awaited, long overdue and much longed for bypass is up and running again!

Just three weeks after the Courier's front page appeal "Why are we waiting", Road Minister Chris Hazzard has announced that additional funding is to be made available for "preparatory works" on a Cookstown bypass.

Francie Molloy MP for Mid-Ulster has welcomed the news from the Minister, who has informed him that over half a million pounds is being allocated for the works over the next two years.

According to Mr Molloy, additional funding has enabled the Minister to move forward on preparatory works on the Cookstown bypass.

Up to 200,000 is available this year, 2016/17 and a further 400,000 the following year.

The initial 200,000 will go towards appointing a consultant (if required) and agreeing terms/tasks proposed; revisiting the preferred alignment; commencing environmental surveys and traffic counts; undertaking fresh lands referencing to establish ownerships and beginning preliminary landowner meetings.

The 400,000 for 2017-18 will include holding a further Public Information Day; completing a detailed specimen design and preparing an Environmental Statement and Draft Orders.

Welcoming the commitment by the Roads Minister, Mr Molloy told the Courier: "This project has been delayed for some time and although a preferred route was selected several years ago, no progress has been made since then.



"This news from the Minister is very welcome and follows on from our meeting with him over the Summer when Sinn Fein pressed the need for action on the Cookstown scheme."

The MP continued: "The Minister has indicated his willingness to look at areas in the west that suffered from a lack of investment and make progress on what are smaller scale projects, but would have a bigger impact on traffic through congested town centres.

“The completion of the Magherafelt scheme is an example of how a project can move forward once the commitment is given and we believe that Cookstown can progress quickly."

Continued Mr Molloy: "There will have been many changes since the previous stage of work was carried out, so it is essential that for the project to progress, we have the details and statistics carried out, enabling the actual work to proceed when ready.

“The commitment from the Minister to address the infrastructural neglect in the west is to be commended and it highlights the fact that to be able to make progress on projects such as this, you need to be in the Executive, making the case and making the decisions."

After a new 35million Magherafelt bypass was officially opened last month, the Courier again posed the question why neighbouring towns Cookstown and Dungannon were continually being bypassed?

The Courier has been following the saga closely and in January 2009 we reported that Cookstown was "at last to get a bypass".

A Public Consultation Day on proposed routes was held in the town's South West College seven years ago and the upshot was that a bypass was to be provided to the east of the town at a cost of between 27 million and 37 million.

Cookstown's bypass is 40 years in the making.

An Eastern Distributor Road, or bypass, to relieve the town centre was identified in the East Tyrone Area Plan of 1974-1994 and was published in 1978.

Part of the route, between the A29 Moneymore Road and Old Coagh Road, named the East Circular Road, has since been constructed, with construction commencing in 1980 (the roadway is situated beside the Beechway housing estate).

However, since its construction, no more development work has taken place.

The Eastern Distributor Road came back on to the agenda again when it was included in the 2004 publication of the Cookstown Area Plan 2010.

In 2007, Roads Service, Western Division commissioned Engineering Consultants, Mouchel of Holywood, to progress the design of a bypass for Cookstown.

Five proposed routes were put forward and the preferred choice was from the Dungannon Road roundabout moving east via Castle Road, Killymoon Road, Clare Lane, Coagh Road, Old Coagh Road and ending at Moneymore Road.

The route from the Moneymore Road was as follows:

The Moneymore Road dual carriageway was to be extended and a new roundabout provided at Cloghog Road and would be the new main entrance to the A29 Cookstown bypass.

The bypass would turn left from the Moneymore Road and cross old railway ground and also Old Coagh Road. It was noted that under the preferred route the Old Coagh Road would be stopped up, according to the proposal, with a new bridge provided to allow traffic on the Coagh Road to flow.



The route was to continue along Cloghog Road and close to Festival Park and would continue beside Golf View and on to part of Killymoon Golf Course, where the 14th and 15th Greens would be shortened to Par 5s.

It also meant the Killymoon course would be reduced by one, from 70 to 69.

According to the planners the bypass would continue past Killymoon Road where a bridge was to be provided and would take in Castle Road, which would also be stopped up from the town side.

The bypass would skirt past the sewage treatment works with a bridge provided over the Ballinderry River and would end up at the Dungannon roundabout.

The Cookstown bypass would include a number of other new bridges.

It was envisaged the Cookstown bypass would relieve as much as 30 per cent of through traffic in Cookstown town centre and would also ease traffic congestion on the Westland Road, the town's unofficial bypass.

According to a Roads Service report in 2009, approximately 17,500 vehicles per day used Cookstown town centre with the Westland Road carrying 12,500 vehicles per day.

Depending on the outcome of a Public Enquiry, which was envisaged, the process was expected to proceed to the issuing of various notices and intentions over land acquisition followed by an Environmental Statement for public viewing.

The Courier reported in 2009, that a completion date was envisaged between 2014-18.

News this week of the Minister's commitment to addressing infrastructure neglect in the west of the Province and preparatory works in the pipeline, means that Cookstown's long-awaited bypass could still become a reality.

However, the question still remains over the future of a bypass for Dungannon. It's bypass proposals were mothballed in 2007.


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