Friday 18 August 2017

Overloaded roads to become unsafe as funding dries up

It is understood as many as 50 major new roads are required across the network. Stock Image
It is understood as many as 50 major new roads are required across the network. Stock Image
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Large parts of the national road network will be overloaded and operating above safe limits by 2030 if traffic volumes continue to grow.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has also warned it needs an additional €120m a year just to keep the network in working order, and that it will cost more in the long term to complete necessary repairs unless extra funding is allocated.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, TII chief executive Michael Nolan said upgrades ranging from small schemes costing between €5m and €15m, coupled with larger projects linking major towns and cities, were needed.

It is understood as many as 50 major new roads are required across the network, including the M20 linking Cork to Limerick, as well as up to 100 smaller projects. Mr Nolan also warned the pipeline of projects was "drying up".

TII, which replaced the National Roads Authority, currently has 20 small schemes under construction and, once completed, there will be no replacement projects.

The Government has committed to 13 schemes in the Building on Recovery capital investment plan, with eight approved and shovel-ready. Five more, including the Galway City bypass, have funding to complete the planning process.

However, work has not yet started on designing or planning 150 schemes that TII says are needed.

"What's on the ground this year and when they finish next year, is probably it. It will come to a grinding halt. We just don't have the funding (to bring projects through planning)," he said. "Most of these schemes would be schemes with poor alignments. If we had a blank cheque, we'd like to do another 100 (smaller schemes) up to 2020 at a cost of around €750m.

"We have a number of projects listed for construction in the seven-year capital plan, and funding of €730m is there.

"On the downside, 90pc of the money is in the last three years of the plan, from 2019.

"The worst thing that could happen to us is in five years, to have no schemes."

TII said that by 2030, most unfinished segments of the network would be more than 20pc over capacity. On the national primary routes, large sections of road in Cork, Kerry, Mayo and Donegal need upgrading, while on the national secondary network works are required across large swathes of the Midlands, the south-west, Galway and the north-east.

At the upper end of the scale is the €700m M20 Cork to Limerick motorway. This would provide a counterpoint to Dublin in terms of attracting foreign direct investment, Mr Nolan said. This is because the motorway would complete a link with Cork, Limerick and Galway, offer access to Shannon Airport and allow for sustained development in the south and west of the country.

Irish Independent

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