The development of a cycle route on the Liffey quays involving the construction of boardwalks over the river is set to be shelved following an increase in projected construction costs from €20 million to more than €100 million.
Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan said the “gold-plated scheme” would be “very expensive” and he thought it was unlikely it would ever go ahead.
The path from the Phoenix Park in the west to the Tom Clarke Bridge in the east has been in planning for a decade, but the route design was not selected by the National Transport Authority (NTA) until April 2019. At the time the cost of the scheme, which would run for 5km on both sides of the river, was estimated at just over €20 million.
It emerged later that year that the route, which would involve the construction of boardwalks over the Liffey at “pinch-points” where the road was too narrow to accommodate buses, cars and segregated cycle lanes, would not be completed until 2024 at the earliest.
Interim measures were put in place at sections along the route in 2020, with reduced traffic volumes during Covid-19 restrictions enabling the council to rapidly install segregated cycling paths in a number of locations, including in front of the Four Courts, where parking was removed at the riverside to allow for a path protected by planting.
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While bollards were installed at other sections, several stretches remained unprotected, including at Ellis Quay on the northside, where there are just two lanes of traffic – one shared by buses, taxis and cyclists, and the other for general traffic. A larger number of sections of the south quays have been left unprotected, including Aston Quay, Crampton Quay, Wellington Quay and Essex Quay, where the road width was again considered insufficient to support segregated cycle facilities.
On these sections and on Ellis Quay, the NTA scheme proposed building boardwalks over the river, similar to those already in place on the northside of the river between Grattan Bridge at Capel Street and Matt Talbot Memorial Bridge at the Custom House. As with the existing boardwalks, the new facilities would be for pedestrians, with the existing riverside footpaths converted into protected cycle lanes.
However, in an update on the scheme, the cost is now projected to be above €100 million, which would require the sanction of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, while a new timescale pushes out its delivery to “post-2027″.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Keegan said the boardwalks were emerging as a large part of the additional expense. “I think if we were to go with what was proposed, which was extensive use of boardwalks, it would be very expensive.”
He acknowledged there were “pinch-points” on the route which could not currently accommodate separate bus, car and cycle lanes, but he was confident these could be addressed through “traffic management measures” to give “further priority” to cyclists on the quays.
“We have put a significant degree of cycling priority on the quays without any grandiose scheme. I’m not sure if we will ever build the gold-plated scheme.”
Mr Keegan would not say whether the traffic management measures would require a car-ban at those narrow sections of the quays, but he said the council had not ruled out the possibility of “reallocating” road space at the pinch-points.
“I am confident that we will be able to address the sections on both quays [that are] without dedicated cycling priority through traffic management measures. If this is the case, there may be no need for the ‘gold-plated’ scheme that was previously proposed.”