The new New Bridge?

“THERE are “no limits” on the design of a new river crossing in the city, Limerick council’s economic director Dr Pat Daly has said.

“Speaking as he launched the public consultation on the footbridge project – which could cost between €8m and €17m – Dr Daly says the local authority is “staying open to any approach and any ideas.”

“We are limitless in terms of interpretations,” he said.

The above is a direct quote from the Limerick Leader’s coverage of the latest meeting about the proposed new footbridge and to give Dr. Daly his due it’s a fair and reasonable stance.

Leaving aside the myriad of issues with whether a bridge is needed ahead of many other projects (Nicholas Street, the Market Quarter) and starting with the assumption that a bridge has to be built, where is the best location for this bridge? Once we can agree a location surely we can start working on what type of bridge should be built. Dr. Daly is to be commended for re-opening the debate right down to the its fundamental level.

It is my belief that the best location for the new footbridge is from Honan’s Quay to O’Callaghan strand for  several reasons. The council acquired the Cleeves site in 2014. It is not yet clear what function it will ultimately serve, with suggestions from everything to convention centre to a cultural centre being proposed. The prospect of the development of the former Golden Vale/Cleeves site is one of the most exciting developments in Limerick in over a decade. Indeed, the site is so large, it could easily be a multi purpose facility. It could be an ideal location for an innovative cultural centre. The footbridge would facilitate access to both the renovated boardwalks on the North side of the river. Provided it didn’t impact on St. Michael’s Rowing Club and the city slip it seems to be an a natural fit for the new bridge.

A bridge at this point could have the ability to rejuvenate the so called Spokane Walk, the area from Milanos down to the Shannon bridge. Ideally it would spur the redevelopment of the derelict ESB building by making the area more attractive to investors.

There is also the prospect that a new footbridge at that location would allow modifications to the Shannon bridge, ideally narrowing of the footpaths and the provision of cycle lanes to make the city more bike friendly. In this respect, this location would be a win-win for the city.

Alternatively, the funding could be used to completely remodel the existing Shannon bridge, which is best described as functional. The attraction of this plan would be it removes a reasonably insipid bridge design from the city and adds an innovative one. It also would prevent any interference with the rowing clubs which use the slips on O’Callaghan strand. Now the prospect of a new “New” bridge is on the table, it hardly seems fair to remove it…

Limerick-LI-main
Tis a fine bridge but is it “iconic” enough….ahem.

It is hard, in my opinion, to make a similar argument for the current proposed location. The area is already served by two bridges, one of which is a footbridge and the site should be considered far more sensitive than that across the Shannon.

Before we even start discussing designs, we need to start discussing locations. It may that there are serious drawbacks to the proposed location above and I’m willing to hear them, but it does appear to have advantages that the current proposed location lacks.

My own preference is for the money for the bridge to be re-invested elsewhere in the city, but if it must be built, let’s at least take the opportunity Dr. Daly has asked us to participate in and start a proper conversation about the fundamentals of where Limerick could benefit from a footbridge.

 

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