Cuts leave drivers facing year of potholes after winter havoc
MOTORISTS will be forced to drive on potholed roads for at least another year because councils cannot afford to repair them.
This is because the Government has not allocated enough money to some of the worst-hit counties to cover the cost of repairing damage caused by the winter's flooding and sub-zero temperatures.
Counties Wicklow, Carlow and Roscommon will all be forced to cut services to meet their massive roads repair bills.
The three counties' councils had estimated such repairs would cost €37m, but they have only been allocated €29m for all their roads projects, including upgrading and maintenance.
Motorists can also expect their cars to suffer damage from the potholes.
Last month, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey announced that €411m would be given to local authorities this year to repair, maintain and improve the country's 95,000km of local and regional roads.
But the extreme winter has left city and county councils with a €180m repair bill, meaning that almost half the budget will be spent on the damage.
Other local authorities, meanwhile, will have to shelve upgrading projects because there isn't any money available.
The Irish Independent has learned that:
• Wicklow County Council will have to pay €14.1m to repair damaged roads; it was allocated just €9.9m.
• Roscommon, which saw 500 times the average rainfall in November, faces a €14.3m repair bill; it received €13.7m.
• Carlow's bill will reach €7.5m; it was allocated €5.6m.
• Waterford's bill is €10.2m; it has been allocated €10.3m.
• Two-thirds of Clare's €15.5m budget will go on repairs (€9.2m), as will half of Kilkenny's allocation.
Government spending on local and regional roads has fallen by more than €200m from the €607m allocated in 2009.
The Department of Transport last night said the grants were intended to "supplement" local resources, and it was a matter for each council to improve and maintain roads.
A spokeswoman said some authorities had pledged to use other sources of income.
"Carlow County Council has indicated it will invest €1.075m of its own resources in regional and local roads in 2010," she told the Irish Independent.
"Roscommon County Council has indicated it will invest €4.735m of its own resources in regional and local roads in 2010. It's important to note that the figures provided by the local authority regarding own resources expenditure are estimated."
Last week, the AA said a poll of 3,000 motorists revealed 85pc of them had hit a pothole in the previous month. Spokesman Conor Faughnan said that unrepaired roads would pose a danger to motorists.
According to the Road Safety Authority, meanwhile, road conditions are responsible for 3pc of all fatal collisions.
"There are smaller and minor roads where you're going to encounter danger for some months to come," Mr Faughnan said.
"That's going to have an impact in the summer when tourists come who aren't used to the roads. That's going to be an ongoing concern and danger.
"The Irish secondary roads network has always been higgledy-piggledy. We will always have roads that have crumbling surfaces. But there's nothing to be gained by prevarication. You'd be better off taking the pain and fixing them now."
Announcing the cuts last month, Mr Dempsey said local authorities were free to add their own money to the grants. The Government has provided more than €6bn in local and regional road grants since 1997.
Fine Gael and Labour have criticised the cuts, warning that road conditions would continue to deteriorate the longer repairs were left undone.