An oral hearing into plans for a Galway ring road has opened and is expected to run for several weeks.

The route is being proposed as part of the overall transport strategy for Galway to address the chronic traffic problems in the city.

Congestion, pollution and soaring stress levels is a daily reality for the thousands of motorists coming into and out of Galway city.

A previous plan to construct a city bypass was blocked on environmental grounds. Planners then unveiled six possible routes before the 18km ring road was chosen.  

The proposed new route - called the N6 Galway City Ring Road - would run from the M6 on the east of the city to a location close to the village of Bearna in the western region.

It will consist of 12km of dual carriageway and 6km of single carriageway.

Galway City Council said the €600m project, which is expected to take three years, would lead to a significant saving in journey times for motorists, but a number of groups opposing the project have questioned its merits, with campaigners saying there should be more focus on public transport.

Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West Éamon Ó Cuív said it does not have to be one or the other.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said that in order to have good quality public transport through Galway city, private vehicles must be taken out.

"We need rapid public transport in Galway," he said.

"We need walking and cycling. But to facilitate all of that, this detailed study - that was commissioned by the National Transport Authority and the local councils - says that you need a road to take traffic around the city. It's not one or the other, it is both".

The planned project would see the the construction of an 18km route that would run from the east side of the city to a location near the village of Barna.

However, over 40 houses are at risk of being demolished, and more than 300 objections to the proposal have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála.

Galway city Green Party Councillor Pauline O'Reilly said the date used to put together the strategy is out of date.

Speaking on the same programme she said a minority of people are sitting in traffic congestion because the majority of people do not have another form of transport.

"We don't have a limitless pot of money," she said. "We are going to shoulder our children and our children's children with a debt of €600m for a road that is over-engineered."

Ms O'Reilly said the road would lead to "sprawl" and that this is the "wrong way" to do town planning.

"You build that road and you're going to see sprawl. That is the antithesis of what we're trying to do if we are really to tackle the climate emergency and if we want people to have a quality of life. This road will add kilometres on to peoples' journeys and they will stop using it."

Ms O'Reilly questioned why proper public transport planning in Galway has not been done up until now and why it is being used as a reason to build the proposed road.

Mr Ó Cuív acknowledged that public transport in Galway is not good enough but said road space must be freed up in order to make it better.

He said he frequently uses public transport himself and would like to see more people walking and cycling in Galway city.