It’s the Scenery – You See!

I got a call from Cllr. Bobby O’Connell during the week and he had an interesting statistic to throw at me. If he had been unsuccessful in last May’s Kerry County Council elections, I would swear blind that he was angling for a job with Fáilte Ireland.

“Do you know that it’s because of the scenery that the by-pass was closed,” Cllr. O’Connell asked. I didn’t. And I didn’t mind admitting it.

Just to set the scene: the N21 or Castleisland By-Pass was closed for repair works over a couple of days last week and it was the talk-of-the-town. While the traffic wasn’t a patch on what it used to be, it was a lot heavier than that which we have become accustomed to since October 2010.

What’s happening is that when the south-bound traffic comes out under the Mullaghmarkey Fly-over they’re so taken by the scenery that they lose concentration and control of their senses and of their vehicles.

The amount of damaged cars and incidents of damage to the road dividers are bearing out Cllr. O’Connell’s theory. Kerry County Council area engineer, Brendan Mulhearn agreed that the statistics would stand up to that line of scrutiny.

“That particular area has seen a lot of minor crashes into the central dividers there. That fact alone means that the dividers are doing what they’re supposed to.

Without them we’d see a lot of head-on crashed here and, yes the majority of these incidents are on the side of traffic heading down into the most scenic stretch of the roadway there,” said Mr. Mulhearn.

The scenery on this part of the road was picked up by the people who did the computer simulation when the by-pass was still in its construction phase. I recall remarking on that in particular in a report I did for The Kerryman at the time. Looking back on it I found a passage in what I wrote that referred to the disarming views:

“On the journey from Dooneen to the Knocknagore Roudnabout I noticed a vista similar to that which delights the eye at Glounsharoon – when you get your first glimpse of the valley and hills below you. As drivers will be coming downhill from the over-bridge near Paddy Flynn’s they will hit the brow of a hill there to be presented with a view of  the Maine Valley below with the Killarney mountains as a backdrop.” 

Little did anyone think that the scenery of Kerry would be the central cause of accidents – albeit minor ones – on the seldom out-of-the-news N21 Castleisland Bypass. I suppose it’s logical then that dull or foggy days would have little or no such ‘excitement’ to report on that scenic section.

And,  can we really help it if Kerry is so disarmingly beautiful that it causes people to lose the run of themselves? As Mr. Mulhearn said earlier, “That’s what the central dividers are there for and they’re working.”

The N21 By-pass was officially opened a couple of months ahead of schedule on Friday, October 22nd 2010 by Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen, TD. The 5.5km road bypasses the town to the west and links the N23 Killarney Road at Clashganniv to the N21 Limerick Road at Dooneen, via the N21 Tralee Road at Knocknagore.

Construction work on the €34m project started on the bypass by Bam Civil Engineering in May 2009, and was due to finish in December 2010. However, good weather conditions in 2010 and a strong push by the contractors saw the project finish well ahead of schedule.