Traffic gridlock fears as Johnston Bridge work restarts

Work at Johnston Bridge is ongoing    RMGFH93

Work at Johnston Bridge is ongoing RMGFH93

ENNISKILLEN will see a return to the traffic chaos of last summer later this month, when works begin again on Johnston Bridge. However, hopes are high this time around lessons have been learned from last year’s fiasco. 
Strengthening and repair works on the bridge is due to begin on Monday, July 18 and will last for at least four weeks, weather permitting. During this time there will be disruption to traffic in  the town, with one lane of the bridge closed 24 hours a day. However, north-bound traffic on the Cornagrade Road should not be affected, with this lane remaining opened, and pedestrians will also still be able to use the bridge. 
This stage of the works, which are needed as the bridge no longer meets modern loading requirements and needs structural repairs to avoid a weight restriction, will cost £300,000. 
Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard said they would be similar to those carried out on the bridge last summer, with resurfacing, waterproofing, kerbing, and reinforcing of concrete among the repairs and improvements to be carried out. The footpath will also be widened to facilitate a cycle path.
“The scheme will benefit many people in the area, as the Cornagrade Road  is one of the main roads leading into the island town,” said the Minister. 
Locally, business are being philosophical about the impending disruption. 
Timmy Rooney, of Rooney’s Shop on the Cornagrade Road, said he wasn’t too worried. 
“If it has to be done, it has to be done,” he said. “We have to go with the flow. We’re not too upset about it. It has to be done at some stage.”
Jonathan Styles from Mercer’s Jewellers explained the reason there was less anxiety this time around was because of the close relationship that had developed between local businesses and Transport NI since last year’s issues, where there was extreme traffic congestion and disruption to business during the works. He said businesses had been kept up-to-date on current plans. 
“The chief engineer on the project has been engaging with us and has been open with us since last year,” said Mr Styles, a member of the Enniskillen Business Partnership. “It was a two-way discussion and he listened to our suggestions, ideas and complaints.”
He added: “We aren’t under any illusions, we know it will be chaos, but it will be shorter chaos than last year. 
“This is a little bit of pain that Enniskillen has to take. We know there will be pain and upheaval, but it has to be done.” 
While the Cornagrade Road itself will be open to local traffic in both directions at all times between Cherrymount Roundabout and the northern end of the Johnston Bridges, south and west-bound traffic will be diverted at A32 Cherrymount Roundabout, via A32 Irvinestown Road, A32 Forthill Street, Gaol Square, A4 Friths Pass and A4 Wellington Road.
A spokesperson for Transport NI apologised for the disruption and asked for cooperation, asking motorists and pedestrians to approach the works with care and to abide by the diversion route as signed.

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