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Bam starts work on £87M bascule bridge across Irish border | New Civil Engineer

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Bam has commenced construction of the €102M (£87M) Narrow Water Bridge in County Louth that will connect the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It will be a two-span 195m cable stayed bascule bridge of asymmetric arrangement. The northern span of the bridge will be a rolling bascule movable span providing, when opened, an unlimited vertical clearance for at least a 20m wide navigational channel.

It was designed by Roughan O’Donovan with support from H&H (Hardesty & Hanover).

It will accommodate vehicular, cycle and pedestrian traffic. Water traffic on the Newry Canal will be able to pass thanks to its ability to open.

It is expected to boost local economic growth and is being funded by the Shared Island Fund, a longstanding commitment of the Irish government reflected in the Programme for Government and New Decade, New Approach agreement.

The Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure, the Irish Government and Louth County Council have worked closely over the past two years to bring it to contract commencement stage.

It is designed to “high sustainability standards” and will be built “using sustainable practices” according to the contractor.

The bridge will connect the A2 Newry to Warrenpoint dual carriageway in Northern Ireland with the R173 at Omeath in the Republic.

The bridge will be a “lynchpin connection for cross-border travel” according to Bam, facilitating recreational activities in the Carlingford Lough region and offering easy access to greenways, mountain bike trails, walking routes and beaches.

The bridge will also support the development of the wider Carlingford Lough region into a tourist destination, providing access between the villages of Warrenpoint, Rostrevor and Carlingford.

The project will be overseen going forward by a Project Board, chaired by the Irish Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and consisting, inter alia, of the chief executive of Louth County Council, the directors of services, finance and engineering at the County Council, and senior officials from the Department of Infrastructure in Northern Ireland and the Irish Department of Transport.

The project is governed by a project agreement with specific milestones regarding project progress against an agreed matrix of construction, financial, contingency and delivery risks.

A strategic bridge between the nations at this location was first proposed almost 50 years ago in the mid-1970s. The current Narrow Water Bridge project commenced in 2008 when Louth County Council engaged Roughan O’Donovan to draw up design proposals.

A previous attempt to build the bridge was halted in 2013 after estimated construction costs rose “considerably higher” than first expected.

Bam Ireland executive director Alasdair Henderson said: “We’re excited to be breaking ground on this important piece of infrastructure that will support sustainable, social and economic development of this area as well as connecting communities north and south of the border.

“Using sustainable practices this bridge, will offer a safe, green route for cyclists and pedestrians, supporting our own vision of building a sustainable tomorrow. Bam has a proud legacy of delivering critical infrastructure across the island of Ireland for over 60 years and looks forward to working with Louth County Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to deliver for the people in the region.”

Taoiseach Simon Harris TD said: “The Shared Island Unit was set up by the coalition for this very reason – to bring about visionary projects for the whole island that had long been sought after but not yet realised.

“I want to pay tribute to the communities and politicians from all parties and none in both Ireland and Northern Ireland who campaigned for a Narrow Water Bridge for decades. The mountains meet the sea all along this stretch of stunning coastline and this bridge will be a game-changer for commerce, daily life and tourism in this part of our shared island.”

Northern Ireland infrastructure minister John O’Dowd said: “This is an historic and significant day for the people of this area.

“I have no doubt that this new bridge will be a game-changer for many reasons.  The bridge will provide a poignant symbol of connection between the north and south. It will play its part connecting communities on both sides of Carlingford Lough and in doing so it will create opportunities for local tourism, as well as the local economy by providing an increase in visitor footfall and employment levels.

“It will serve as a vital element of cross-border active travel while facilitating greenways, mountain bike trails, walking routes and beaches in the Carlingford Lough region.

“This new landmark is a perfect example of the difference infrastructure projects can make in people’s lives.”

Louth County Council chief executive Joan Martin said: “I am delighted to welcome the commencement of works at the Narrow Water Bridge site, a project which will provide an unprecedented boost to the cross-border region as a whole. It has been a long-standing strategic priority for Louth County Council, which will deliver a key piece of infrastructure, improving access to the wealth of tourist attractions we have in this area. This historic bridge will stand as a symbol of the connections that bind communities north and south.”

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