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Saturday 10 December 2016

'Large parts of road network will be 20pc above capacity by 2030'

Warning of need to invest to cope with increase in traffic flows

Published 23/11/2016 | 02:30

Michael Nolan, chief executive of Transport Infrastructure Ireland. Photo: Damien Eagers
Michael Nolan, chief executive of Transport Infrastructure Ireland. Photo: Damien Eagers

Large parts of the national road network will be operating at more than 20pc above capacity in just over a decade unless the State ramps up investment, it has been warned.

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Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) said that roads in Co Cork, Co Kerry, Co Waterford, Co Mayo, Co Donegal and across the midlands require upgrading by 2030 to accommodate increasing traffic flows.

In many cases, these roads were due to be improved but the schemes were cancelled over recent years as the roads budget was slashed.

In just over a decade, "most unfinished segments" of the network will be more than 20pc over capacity, roads bosses warned.

TII operates 5,306km of national primary and secondary roads, made up of motorways, dual carriageways and single lane roads. The roads and light-rail agency has previously warned that it is running out of minor schemes to complete due to funding cuts, and now says that large parts of the national network are "unfinished" and need work.

It is understood as many as 50 projects have been identified to "fill in the gaps" across the network and provide safe, engineered roads. Among the priority schemes is the M20 Cork to Limerick Road, where planning is due to resume shortly after the Department of Transport allocated additional funding.

Others include the N2 Monaghan to Northern Ireland border, N4 Mullingar to Longford, N17 Tobercurry bypass, N21 Abbeyfeale bypass, N21 Newcastle bypass, N24 Cahir to Limerick Junction, N25 Carrigtwohill to Midleton, N25 Waterford to Glenmore, N25 Oilgate to Rosslare, N52 Tullamore to Kilbeggan, N71 Innishannon bypass, N84 Ballinrobe bypass and N81 Blessington bypass.

Another 100 smaller schemes, costing between €5m and €15m each have also been identified.

Safety

The warning comes after traffic data showed that the number of cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles using routes into our main towns and cities was up 15,500 year-on-year, or 3.4pc.

TII data shows the number of vehicles using routes into the five cities and major towns including Portlaoise, Athlone, Mullingar, Sligo and Letterkenny rose by 58,000 between 2013 and 2016, an increase of 14.3pc.

TII chief executive Michael Nolan said many of the roads in need of investment would carry between 3,000 and 6,000 vehicles a day. "They're usually on the western seaboard which missed the investment in the boom," he said.

The Department of Transport's Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport has identified a need to improve connections to key seaports and airports, provide access to poorly served regions and complete "missing links" and address safety issues.

An internal TII document said the agency wanted to maintain a pipeline of schemes at various stages of planning, and said that low construction costs coupled with the need to grow employment meant it would be "advantageous" to carry out these works now.

"There remain many strategically important and economically beneficial schemes in planning. It would be very advantageous to carry out many of these schemes now," it said.

Among the reasons cited include the ability to "take advantage" of low land acquisition costs, improve competitiveness, provide employment and underpin regional development.

Irish Independent

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