Major road improvement works costing in excess if €1m have commenced on the site of one of Clonmel’s oldest landmarks, the Fethard Road Railway Bridge. Constructed circa. 1852, the current narrow structure of the bridge will be transformed over the coming months to accommodate increased traffic flow that has made this part of Clonmel one of the worst bottlenecks during peak times. Worlds apart from the old days of the horse and cart, today the Fethard Road bridge can no longer cater for the rat race that is modern day Ireland. It will be widened significantly eastwards, creating three lanes of traffic - two lanes will be built to accommodate commuters travelling into town from the Fethard Road roundabout direction, with one lane for traffic coming out of town towards the roundabout, until it meets the existing lane arrangement there. In the interest of pedestrian safety, a two metre wide footpath will also be built on each side of the bridge.
But in order for the above roadworks to happen, part demolition of the existing bridge is necessary, which means that the arches which support the current road surface will be removed, while the supporting walls will remain. The bridge will be reconstructed using pre-cast concrete beams which are currently being fabricated on site by John Cradock Civil Engineering, which commenced work here in late April.
Clonmel railway station is part of the Waterford to Limerick line and was built and opened in 1852. It is understood that the Fethard Road bridge was constructed around the same time, facilitating a diversion from Thomas Street, around the front of the existing station house, over the railway and back onto the Fethard Road.
The proposed works were put on display in 2006 and following consultation at that time between Iarnrod Eireann, South Tipperary County Council, local residents and business people, the proposed works were welcomed and unanimously approved at the July meeting of the local authority, that same year.
The existing landscape of the Fethard Road and Thomas Street junction will also be altered significantly with the construction of a 28m roundabout. That, along with the widened bridge will generally improve the road alignment over the railway, connecting to the existing roundabout on the N24. According to town engineer Jonathon Cooney, the new bridge parapets and approach walls will be faced with limestone to match, as much as possible, the existing structure.
Mr Cooney said that there was no other way around the issues that the 160-year-old bridge and road layout posed for commuters and pedestrians and said that safety and traffic flow will be greatly improved on completion of the works, which are funded by the Department of Transport, under the Specific and Strategic Projects Scheme.
“Where there is an issue with adequate sight lines at the junction of Thomas Street with the Prior Park Road and the narrow width of footpaths on the Fethard Road railway bridge, it was deemed necessary to carry out these improvement works to benefit local residents, businesses, commuters and pedestrians,” said Mr Cooney. He said that the Council had received no complaints about the part-demolition of the bridge and removal of its arches.
All demolition works, beam placement and foundation excavation will be carried out at night to ensure minimal impact on train services to Clonmel station. There will be a ten-day road closure in September to complete an element of the works, with completion of the project expected in November. See www.johncradock.ie for further details and updates.