M50's €1bn upgrade to be completed by next month
THE four-year €1bn upgrade of Dublin's M50 will be finished next month, road bosses promised yesterday.
Once the country's most notorious traffic jam, with 16km tailbacks not uncommon, the National Roads Authority (NRA) will announce the completion of the massive upgrading project in the coming weeks.
Gone are the hated toll booths and the Mad Cow Roundabout, both replaced with barrier-free tolling and free-flow interchanges.
Four lanes of motorway now run on each carriageway along the 31km route, and 10 junctions have been replaced.
The massive upgrading project is now in its final stages, the NRA said yesterday, with most of the mainline carriageway now fully complete.
This year has seen upgrading of five interchanges -- at Ballymun, Ashbourne/Finglas, M3 Blanchardstown, N81 Tallaght and Scholarstown/Firhouse -- with the final piece of the jigsaw, the M3, to be finished at the end of the month.
NRA spokesman Sean O'Neill has previously referred to the upgrading works as being like "doing open heart surgery on someone going to work". This was because the motorway was rebuilt underneath the wheels of 100,000 cars using the motorway every day, while all the time keeping traffic moving.
"The M50 was the Achilles' heel of the network; if there was a problem people felt it everywhere," he said.
"The final section of the M50 will be finished at the end of the month. We are approaching the finish line, believe it or not. Hopefully we will have a definitive date at the end of the month."
The M50 Dublin bypass was first proposed in the 1970s but not until 1990 -- when the private sector built the bridge over the Liffey Valley and introduced a tolling system -- was it complete. A plan to make all interchanges freeflow was rejected because of the high cost, put at €63m.
However, just 15 years later, the road was in trouble. There wasn't enough capacity and the junctions were overloaded, meaning motorists had to queue to get on to the road and the toll plaza was forcing motorists to wait up to an hour for the privilege of paying the toll.
The upgrading project was approved by An Bord Pleanala in 2005, and it included the introduction of a barrier-free tolling system, which generates €80m a year in fees.
The AA welcomed the news yesterday.
"It is a magnificent piece of infrastructure and the city badly needed it," spokesman Conor Faughnan said.
"Just a few years ago traffic congestion was strangling the city, particularly on the south side. With the recession traffic volumes have dropped a bit, but the revitalised M50 has made a big difference.
"The only blot is the AA's ongoing complaint that the tolling devalues the M50. We were of the view at the time that rather than install a barrier-free system, they should have allowed it to become a toll-free system.
"It raises €80m but costs €20m to run. The presence of the toll does deter traffic from using it. That's particularly the case for people commuting on it. It could be €10 a week in tolls, and they're still turning up in places like Blanchardstown and the Phoenix Park to avoid it," Mr Faughnan added.