Stephen McCrory, Executive Engineer with the Councils Road Design Bridges Team
“Donegal has around 2500 bridges,” says Stephen McCrory from Donegal County Council’s Road Design Bridges Team. “But many more if you include all the small arches, pipes and culverts,” he adds.
The Bridges team provide technical support and project management services to each of Donegal County Council’s five Municipal District Roads Offices.
“We cover the whole of Donegal which means we often find ourselves in the middle of some fantastic scenery, albeit usually up to our knees in some river or stream!”
Stephen added the Bridges team manage the annual specialist bridge strengthening programme on non national roads throughout the county.
“We target repairs to the individual structural needs of the bridges based on an ongoing programme of bridge inspections. By indentifying and prioritising problem bridges, we can direct the funds to where they are most needed. This way we can save more bridges and keep both our roads and our rivers flowing free.
“We will be strengthening or replacing 17 bridges throughout Donegal this year. We have many fine fishing rivers in Donegal and Donegal County Council endeavour to undertake any bridge repair works in a responsible manner. We check each bridge for bats, nesting birds and other sensitive species before we undertake any repair works and undertake our in-stream work between May and September as this is the time the works will have the minimum impact on fish species within the watercourse.”
Talking about the county’s bridges Stephen has much respect for the men who built them initially.
“You can’t help being impressed by the skill, ingenuity and workmanship of the men who built the old bridges around Donegal, every stone placed does a job. These bridges, built by hand to carry the occasional horse and cart, are now carrying cars and lorries in their thousands and the bridges are still standing strong. The old bridges are an important part of Donegal’s social history and also a valuable asset to the county’s road network, so we try hard to preserve these bridges where possible.
He also explains about the Bridges team work on the current major projects.
“Last year was a great year for the team as we helped deliver two new key pieces of infrastructure in Donegal. The Elactagh bridge project involved the construction of a new 16m road bridge and 300m of approach road on the R252. The bridge replaced an old, narrow concrete structure which had fallen into disrepair. The new road now supports two-way traffic and is an important connection from Ballybofey to the west of the county.
The new Elactagh bridge project on the Ballybofey to Glenties road outside Cloghan
“Moville footbridge is a 20m reinforced concrete arched structure spanning the Bredagh river which connects the Community College and other community facilities to the town centre. It is a real Donegal bridge,” continues Stephen, “as it was designed by Carr and Company from Ballybofey, built by Joseph McMenamin and Sons from Stranorlar and managed by Donegal County Council. If you look carefully there is real detail in the concrete work and it is great to think that we have these skills available locally. It is amazing to think that these bridges will be benefitting local communities long after I’m gone, hopefully they will stand the test of time as well as our masonry arch bridges.
Looking forward Stephen points out that Donegal County Council was recently awarded funding for Mullantiboyle bridge near Glenties and new 24m single span concrete bridge with 90m of approach roads.
“We are now working hard to get this project to site this year and subject to funders consent will be tendering the works in June.”
There is no doubt that Stephen enjoys his role but it is not all good.
“The great thing about the job is the variety of work we get, no two bridges are ever the same and that each project requires a bit of consideration to tailor the solution to the particular needs of that bridge, that road and that watercourse. The time, environmental and statutory constraints we work to are challenging, so it is nice when it all works out at the end of the year and we deliver the programme of works on the ground within our budget.
“It is nice to know the bridges are repaired for the foreseeable future and that the roads are a little bit safer as a result. Not every day is a good day though there is nothing worse than a rainy winters day in the hills of Donegal inspecting bridges with a leaky welly,” he says.
- Donegal has around 2500 bridges on the 6274km of road network
- Donegal County Council strengthens or replaces around 20 bridges per annum on non national roads, this in addition to any general repairs undertaken by each municipal district roads office and any major projects undertaken.
- The 2015 budget for non national road specialist bridge strengthening works is €475,000.
- Contractors interested in tendering for bridge works should visit http://www.etenders.gov.ie
- Current bridge projects advertised on e-tenders
- Straths Bridge, near Carndonagh
- Forthcoming bridge projects to be advertised on e-tenders
- Mullantieboyle bridge near Glenties
- Millsessiagh bridge in Ballindrait