Cheaper to move schools than to build ‘bypass’ -Alderman

“It would be cheaper to move the schools” in the town than construct the South Western Distributor Road to bypass them, a Ballymena councillor has said.

Alderman Robin Cherry’s comment came following a presentation by DRD officials at a Council committee meeting last week on the S.W. Distributor Road which is still at the ‘on paper’ stage despite being first proposed back in 1966. Only the first part of the road - Ballee Road West - was ever built.

Intended to go around the western side of the town, the road would distribute traffic from a southerly direction into the suburbs, alleviating congestion in central Ballymena at peak times such as the school run, and terminating to the north of the town.

Giving an update to councillors, DRD representative Meryvn Orr said such a route could relieve busy roads which are clogged up at peak times on a daily basis including Galgorm Road, North Road, Linenhall Street, Bridge Street, Larne Road link junction, Bridge Street/Harryville Bridge, Toome Road, Tullygarley Road, and Cullybackey Road.

Modelled traffic flows reveal, for example, that some 14,950 vehicles travel along the Galgorm Road per day with 1606 vehicles per hour using the road during the morning peak flow. This figure is expected to steadily rise in future years.

Taking that into account and projecting 15 years ahead, the development of the S.W. Distributor Road could effect a reduction in peak morning traffic on the Galgorm Road of between 18.5% and 31%, depending on the final route selection, councillors heard.

“The need is still as valid today as it was then (1966),” said Mr Orr who also pointed out that if the scheme, which could cost from £22m-£25m, does go ahead it is likely to be developer funded.

Cllr Declan O’Loan said: “The scheme is absolutely defensible and I hope Council will get behind this project.”

It was proposed by Cllr Roy Gillespie, seconded by Cllr Timothy Gaston, that Council write to the Minister seeking funding for the scheme and this was agreed by the majority.

Ald. Robin Cherry, however, said: “It has taken 47 years to get to this length. Would it not be cheaper to move the schools?

“It would be easier to take the schools out into the wilds and people could get into the town,” he said.