The bulldozers and diggers have moved in to begin work on Magherafelt’s by-pass road...after a 40 year wait.
It marks an end to decades of lobbying for funding, public inquiries and wrangling over the precise route of the 3.7 mile carriageway from Castledawson Roundabout to Moneymore Road.
Next month it will be full steam ahead on the £45 million project that has been ‘shelved’ countless times since it was first proposed back in the mid-seventies.
Politicians this week expressed relief that the serious work was about to begin following the preparatory operations.
Ulster Unionist Councillor George Shiels said the work represented years of lobbying and in particular recent talks with the DRD Minister Danny Kennedy.
“This is good news for Magherafelt town and the wider Mid-Ulster area,” he said. “It will free the town centre of heavy commercial vehicles and help make it a better shopping town.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Brian McGuigan agreed that the completion of the by-pass by October 2016, will be a boost to the economy of the Magherafelt.
“It is a very positive development and will have long term benefits not only for Magherafelt but the entire Mid-Ulster Council area,” he said.
While welcoming the start of the by-pass, DUP Councillor Anne Forde said she had sympathy for farmers who will lose their land as a result of the work.
Department for Regional Development spokesperson said: “Advance works onsite are progressing well. The Department is currently assessing tenders with a view to awarding the contract in early February.”