Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Cork County Council say an 8km bypass of Macroom in Co Cork that has opened today will have a transformative effect on the town and on the Cork and Kerry region.

The bypass is part of a €280m project which will see a new dual carriageway built from the Cork and Kerry border, extending for 22km to the east of Macroom.

It is expected that the Macroom bypass will significantly ease traffic congestion, which has blighted the town for years.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin officially opened the bypass and work will now focus on the remaining 14km of the N22 dual carriageway. That is due for completion in early 2024.

Mr Martin said the bypass will "greatly improve safety and accessibility for local communities who will use this road regularly as well as for those travelling between Cork and Kerry".

"It will encourage economic growth, supporting further investment and employment to the region," the Taoiseach said.

"I look forward to seeing Macroom and the wider region go from strength to strength in the years ahead and wish all who travel on the road a safe journey."

Mayor of Cork County Danny Collins said that today is "a fantastic day" for the people of Macroom.

"Thanks to the bypass, the volume of traffic will decrease by 40%, leading to improved quality of life for residents, businesses and visitors to Macroom," Mr Collins said.

"Now, the urban renewal of Macroom will begin, where motorists travelling between Cork and Kerry will visit the town and properly experience all that Macroom has to offer without worrying about being stuck in traffic.

"I would like to thank all the construction staff for their hard work over the last two and a half years and for the community events in recent weeks. It was wonderful to see so many people walking on the new road, taking in the sights and impressive engineering of the road all while raising money for local charities."

Eileen O'Flynn has run The Auld Triangle bar and restaurant on the outskirts of Macroom for more than 20 years.

Pub owner Eileen O'Flynn says her business suffered because of the traffic congestion

She recalls regular tailbacks on the western approaches to Macroom, with traffic approaching from the Kerry side coming to a halt at the graveyard, beyond her bar, and even as far back as the civic amenity site at Codrum, 3km outside the town.

"It's unbelievable," Ms O'Flynn says, expressing the frustration shared by many. "It has affected all the businesses in the town."

She says her business is one of many to have suffered because of the traffic congestion.

"People couldn't come up from the town for lunch at The Auld Triangle, because it would take them 30 to 40 minutes to get back down again after lunch. Nobody has that time," Ms O’Flynn says.

Around 75km in Fermoy, the town is benefitting from the opening of the M8 motorway. Fermoy was bypassed for traffic and heavy goods vehicles on the Cork and Dublin route from October 2006.

Fermoy is more than 15 years further along the curve than Macroom. The town continues to reap the benefits of being bypassed, providing a vision of what Macroom can expect in the future.

Tom Bryan has worked in his family's DIY and electrical store in Fermoy all his life.

Tom Bryan says businesses have thrived in Fermoy since the introduction of the bypass

His father, Toss, opened the business in the town in 1954. The store used to be in the centre of the town, but moved to the outskirts at the end of Courthouse Road in 2004, just in time to benefit from the impending opening of the M8.

Once the motorway opened, traffic congestion eased in Fermoy and the people of the area began to enjoy their freedom of movement once again.

Businesses have thrived, Mr Bryan says.

"The town has come on in leaps and bounds," he said. "You are back to normal times for journeys.

"You can see the HGVs, they are all taken out of the town. That has led to a much better shopping environment; more businesses have opened up; (there has been) a lot of investment in retail; happier customers and more people coming to Fermoy and enjoying Fermoy."

The primary motivation for the construction of the N22 Baile Mhuirne to Macroom dual carriageway was safety.

The new road will extend from beyond Baile Mhúirne near the Cork and Kerry border to the eastern side of Macroom.

Drone shot of the Macroom bypass
A drone shot of the Macroom bypass

That particular road was one of the most dangerous stretches of national primary routes in the country, accounting for many fatal accidents.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland partnered with Cork County Council to deliver the project after the Government provided the funding.

Director of Services for Roads and Transportation with Cork County Council Padraig Barrett says the most positive impact of the N22 project will be on Macroom and on the nearby villages of Baile Mhuirne and Baile Mhic Íre.

He points out that more than 12,000 cars and almost 1,000 heavy goods vehicles pass through Macroom daily, and the vast majority of these will use the by-pass when it opens.

"This is going to be transformative," Padraig Barrett says. "There will be benefits for the entire region.

Mr Barrett added: "During the Celtic Tiger era, Ireland did very well in terms of connecting the regions to Dublin.

"It's now time for the regions to develop as well and this project is one of those projects that was necessary for regional development. So, the entire southwest region, both Cork and Kerry, will benefit from this scheme."