THE FIRST vehicles are expected to be rolling across a new bridge to Achill Island in coming days.
The €5 million swing bridge at Achill Sound replaces the old structure called after Michael Davitt, founder of the Land League, which was provided in 1947 after the pivotal mechanism of the first bridge, built 60 years earlier, had become stuck and corroded.
Before 1887, the narrow sea channel at Achill Sound could only be crossed at low tide on foot or on horseback.
Now, the third major bridge in Achill's history is ready to go into service for the inhabitants of the island and the tens of thousands who visit every year. The swing mechanism allows pleasure boats fishing boats and other vessels pass.
The old bridge had begun to give problems.
Michael Mongan, senior engineer with the council, said: "The elements were again taking their toll on the mechanism. You could open the bridge to allow vessels through but you ran the risk of not being able to close it again."
SIAC Construction began work on the project in September last year. Work proceeded slowly throughout the winter as overhead high tension wires had to be re-routed underground.
The opportunity was taken to complete a phase of the Achill Sound sewerage scheme in conjunction with the new cabling.
Mr Mongan said the bridge would be commissioned this week, meaning that the equipment which will pivot the bridge will be powered up and tested. He said he did not foresee any difficulties.
There will be a kiosk at the bridge with automatic controls on it, a one-person operation. There will be barriers for traffic such as exists at railway level crossings or similar to those on one of the Shannon bridges at Tarmonbarry.
The weight of the new structure is about 200 tonnes.
"It is important to keep it as light as possible so that it can swing easily on its central pier," Mr Mongan said.
Work is now under way to remove about 25,000 tonnes of material used to build the temporary causeway which was in place throughout construction.
The Irish Times