The longest precast concrete bridge beams in Ireland and Britain have been placed over a river at Macroom in County Cork, as part of a €280m project to bypass the town.
Each of the seven beams is 50 metres in length and weighs more than 150 tonnes.
It took four nights, garda escorts and some of the best drivers in the country to transport the seven bridge beams from Banagher in County Offaly to Macroom in Cork.
En route, at the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork, the drivers had just 20 centimetres or eight inches head space from the ceiling of the tunnel.
But the beams made it safely to Macroom, and are now in place over the River Laney.
“It took months of planning,” said Project Liaison Officer with Cork County Council, Jonathan Noonan.
He praised co-operation between the council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, contractor Jons Civil Engineering and John Craddock JV, Banagher Precast Concrete and the haulage and crane companies.
Mr Noonan described progress on the project as “exceptional”, notwithstanding the time lost during the first lockdown, when the site was shut down.
“We have this bridge structure in,” he said, referring to the new bridge over the River Laney near Bealick Mill in Macroom.
“Last night we put another structure in, and people are even working today and tomorrow to get ready for another structure over the Sullane River further downstream, with further beams coming in January, February and March, giving us free rein over the site when we need to enter the key earthworks moving season.”
The Macroom/Baile Mhuirne bypass involves the construction of 22 kilometres of dual carriageway. The bypass will improve journey times and safety and will eliminate chronic traffic congestion in Macroom.
Local auctioneer Killian Lynch expects the impact of the bypass to be transformative.
“You can see the traffic here,” Mr Lynch said as he stood at the edge of the Square in Macroom, “it has devastated the town. Going forward, this town will absolutely lift – this town will be unrecognisable in 10 years time.”
Costing more than a quarter of a billion euro, construction of the bypass is one of the biggest building projects currently under way in the country.
There is still a long way to go, but the project is on schedule to open by late 2023