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Saturday, 26 April 2008

www.ireland.com & The Tearing Of The Green...

Ariel View of Dublin's Stephens Green:



Story from www. ireland.com - Saturday, 26th April, 2008:

"Plans for the Metro North line entail excavating a large section of St Stephen's Green at huge cost. But some are questioning the wisdom of using the Green as a transport hub, and worry that the work will forever alter the character of the park. Frank McDonald Environment Editor reports.
On November 1st, 2005, at the Government's fanfare launch of its €34 billion Transport 21 investment programme, then minister for transport Martin Cullen announced that St Stephen's Green would become the capital's key transport hub. "It will be to Dublin what Grand Central is to New York," he said.

A discreet veil was drawn over the environmental impact of this radical proposal, particularly on the much-loved park that was given to the people of Dublin in 1880 by Sir Arthur Edward Guinness, Lord Ardilaun, under an Act of Parliament entrusting its long-term care to the Commissioners of Public Works.
...design drawings seen by The Irish Times clearly show that at least a quarter of the park would be devastated by the scheme. It would, in effect, be turned into a vast construction site, requiring the removal of the landmark Fusiliers' Arch at its northwestern corner, dozens of mature trees and a large part of the lake.

In order to create the underground concourse and platforms for the proposed "Grand Central" station, a huge hole more than 20 metres deep and 160 metres long would be excavated at this location, extending beyond the railings from a point opposite the Fitzwilliam Hotel to a point opposite the St Stephen's Green Club.

This "cut-and-cover" project would take at least three years to complete, requiring some traffic diversions in the area. Excavated material would be removed by trucks using an access point on the north side of the Green and running down Dawson Street. Operation of the Sandyford Luas line would be unaffected.

To facilitate the movement of Metro North trains at their terminus station, the twin tracks would be burrowed under the middle of the park towards its southeastern corner and there would also be a large turnback loop, which is apparently to be tunnelled using the same "drill and blast" technique common in coal mining.

The St Stephen's Green station on CIÉ's planned rail interconnector, or "Dart Underground", linking Heuston Station with Spencer Dock, would also have a negative impact at ground level. A 200-metre stretch along the northern side of the Green would be turned into a construction site, with the loss of more trees.

Its station would be constructed on a transverse axis, partly beneath the Metro North station, using more "drill and blast" excavation underground, requiring the removal of some 8,000 truckloads of material. However, it is unclear at this stage whether these two projects by rival agencies will proceed in tandem.

Even after the park is restored with replacement trees and the Fusiliers' Arch and lake are reinstated, the character of St Stephen's Green would be permanently altered by visible - and discordant - elements of the two stations above-ground, including ventilation ducts, emergency escape stairs and other accoutrements.

For example, the drawings prepared by the RPA and consultant engineers Jacobs International show a cluster of air vents on the island in the park's lake which is a refuge for ducks and waterhens.

No wonder the Office of Public Works (OPW) was "aghast" when it was first shown the plans, according to a source.

When the Sandyford Luas line and its current terminus on the west side of St Stephen's Green was under construction, the OPW was so protective of the park and its curtilage that it wouldn't even permit any encroachment on the footpath outside. Now, it is faced with the prospect of much of the Green becoming a building site.

"It beggars belief that four decades after the battle to save Hume Street they're now planning to demolish St Stephen's Green," said one engineer who examined the detailed drawings. "But it's clear that the Green was selected [ for construction of the station] because it's a wonderful works site, a big open space."

IN 2006, THE Green was shortlisted for the Academy of Urbanism's Great Place award. The academy's poet in residence, Ian McMillan, wrote that "every city needs a green like this/To pause for a moment in the city's throng/This green is a smile and this green is a kiss/ And Dublin is the city where St Stephen's Green belongs"

...John Costigan, managing director of the Gaiety Theatre, has also expressed concern that one of the twin-bore metro tunnels would come perilously close to its fly-tower, which was rebuilt in recent years on steel piles with a depth of 10 or 11 metres, and that the theatre could be affected by vibrations from the metro...

...THE COST OF the 17km metro line was estimated at €4.58 billion in 2004, though this was never publicly admitted by the RPA. With construction cost inflation since then, plus the addition of a new station at Parnell Square and agreement to put the line underground in Ballymun, the figure could now be as high as €6 billion. That would work out at €353 million per kilometre for a single line which, the RPA admits, would carry elongated Luas-type trams rather than heavy rail metro trains. This contrasts with €60 million per kilometre for the extension of the Tallaght Luas line in Docklands - the most expensive Luas project to date.

...The RPA is in the process of selecting a "preferred bidder" for the Metro North project from a shortlist of four consortiums and preparing an environmental impact statement, with a view to making a formal application for a railway order in August. By then, the design of the project will be set, sealing the fate of St Stephen's Green."
Never mind "The Tearing Of The Green" - it's more like "Construction Destruction." - It's totally crazy to see one of Dublin's favourite landmarks under threat.
Could only happen in Ireland.

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