M6 Athlone Southern Bypass
||Could open : 2040||Status : Unlikely|
In 1991, Athlone was bypassed to the north with a grade-separated dual carriageway. Control of access was high, with no frontage breaks, although cyclists and pedestrians were permitted due to the lack of motorway regulations. Unfortunately, tight bends at either end meant that safety and speed limits weren't as high as they could be, and in the motorway redesignation rounds of 2008 and 2009, Athlone was shortlisted but missed out. It was clear that it just wasn't up to scratch. Nonetheless, motorways were connected to either end from 2007 to 2010, creating a long distance Dublin-Galway route of which the Athlone Bypass was the central stopover. The bypass's speed limit remained at 100 km/h, reflecting its lower standard than adjacent segments.
The route's double function as town distributor and long distance expressway mean that a major rebuild would be needed to adequately separate them, and this would in any case still leave the tight bends. The only truly ideal answer is to build a second bypass to the south of the town that leaves the current one for local traffic movements only. Since this would cut the corner, it would in fact shorten the through-distance somewhat, from 9.4 to 7.2 kilometres. With no intermediate junctions, it would also be faster and safer. The time saving is small (2 mins*), but the safety improvement could be significant.
The new route would be M6, which would require the existing Athlone bypass to be renumbered. In 1994, the former N64 was renumbered to a new part of the N18. This number could be reused for the Athlone bypass.
* 9.4 km at 100 km/h takes 5'38
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|Origin||M6, east of Athlone|
|Terminates||M6, west of Athlone|