MAYOR of Newtownabbey Victor Robinson has said the completion of the A2 upgrade between Jordanstown and Carrick will bring a major boost to tourism in the borough.
Last week, Alderman Robinson took part in the official sod-cutting ceremony to mark the beginning of the work which will see a new 2.2mile dual-carriageway built along with four new roundabouts between Jordanstown and Seapark.
The work, scheduled to take two years to complete will, it’s hoped, alleviate congestion for the 35,000 motorists who travel the route each day.
Over the past five decades the project has been planned, proposed, delayed and shelved and last Thursday’s sod-cutting represented an event many thought they would never see.
While the Roads Service, in conjunction with Translink, has worked to minimise disruption, it’s expected some of the minor roads in the borough, most notably the Doagh Road, Monkstown Road, Old Carrick Road will see increased levels of traffic.
Ald Robinson told the Times: “We all know you can’t change a two-lane road system into four lanes and build four new roundabouts without some disruption.
“But the payoff of that disruption will be the massive boost this will bring to the borough in terms of tourism and I am delighted to see the agencies working together to minimise as best they can the inconvenience for local residents.
“Jordanstown Loughshore Park is a gateway to the Glens of Antrim and the Causeway coastal route and we can only benefit from this improvement in infrastructure.
“This work is long overdue and we in Newtownabbey welcome it.”
Throughout the work during peak periods there will be two lanes of traffic open in both directions, with a reduced 30mph speed limit.
Translink has put on extended train services to cope with demand and information will be provided to the public on road closures.
Roads minister Danny Kennedy has said it is important Newtownabbey exploits the opportunities the new A2 dual carriage way project will bring the town.
Speaking to the Times ahead of the historic sod-cutting ceremony for the 2.2-mile, £60million project, Mr Kennedy said the improvement to infrastructure will provide a boost to the economy of the town and the borough.
“I am delighted that I am the minister that is able to get this project off the ground and it is important that Newtownabbey works to exploit the opportunities that come with having better road links and reduced journey times.
“The A2 is an important strategic route and is an example of a bottleneck needing to be addressed.
“As outlined in the Regional Development Strategy, the upgrading of the strategic road network in Northern Ireland will enhance accessibility to towns and help to build an integrated regional economy, as well as facilitating tourist travel, by improving key tourism sites.
“Investment in roads’ infrastructure is an essential component in creating jobs and future prosperity. In the short-term, it provides much-needed jobs for the construction sector and local suppliers and in the longer term it facilitates economic growth, which is key to our future competitiveness.”
Throughout the construction, 416 weeks’ work placements will be given to the unemployed, alongside work for apprentices and students, which was part of the contract signed by Graham Construction to deliver the scheme.
Mr Kennedy said: “Not only will the scheme help local businesses, but it will also bring jobs to the area. Which is further positive news.
“I would like to acknowledge the impact that this scheme has had on the affected property owners.
“In some cases, the impact has been significant in terms of loss. I would thank them for their cooperation to date and in anticipation of their continued cooperation throughout the construction period.”
Minister Kennedy concluded: “Although road users will experience come delays during the construction of this scheme, traffic management arrangements have been carefully planned and the phasing of works will seek to limit this disruption in so far as is possible.
“I am very mindful of the impact that this scheme has had on landowners, business and residents. I thank them for their understanding and cooperation and I am confident that they will quickly realise the wide-ranging benefits of this investment, once the scheme is completed.”