Gridlock fears as traffic levels jump by up to 10pc in a year
Traffic volumes on main roads into our major towns and cities have risen by more than 10pc in some areas in just one year.
The number of cars, trucks, buses and motorcyclists using routes into built-up areas is up more than 15,500 year-on-year, or 3.4pc, fuelling concerns about a return to boom-time congestion levels.
The figures, which were compiled by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) which operates the national road network, show that traffic volumes heading into Galway city are up by almost 2,000 vehicles a day, up 10.4pc.
Since 2013, numbers are up more than 26pc - adding an additional 4,500 vehicles to roads.
The data is based on volumes recorded on the first Wednesday of October for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
It shows that in 2013, just over 403,000 vehicles were recorded using routes into Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and the towns of Portlaoise, Athlone, Mullingar, Sligo and Letterkenny.
On the same day in 2016, the number had swelled by almost 58,000 - up 14.3pc.
Figures for 2015 and 2016 show that volumes increased from 445,500 to 461,000, a rise of 15,595.
The figures will put pressure on the Government to begin tackling traffic volumes on our main roads. They come after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned in recent weeks that traffic causes air pollution issues in built-up areas, with pollution responsible for as many as 1,200 premature deaths every year.
Ireland is required to reduce transport emissions, which account for 21pc of our national total, to meet international obligations to tackle climate change.
However, the EPA has warned that increased traffic volumes which arise as economic growth resumes will make achieving these targets difficult.
We are expected to miss EU 2020 targets, which could result in fines being imposed.
Chief executive of TII, Michael Nolan, told the Irish Independent that provision of a good public transport system was required to tackle congestion levels and that new roads weren't the solution.
However, he said that parts of the national network needed upgrading, and some works were being completed in Cork, Dublin and other areas to improve traffic flows.
"The population is growing, and the economy is growing. We haven't finished the job we set out to do," he said.
"There's gaps in the network. There's bottlenecks on the network, and congestion in urban areas. You can't build your way out of the problem.
"In Cork, we will solve some of the congestion with the Dunkettle interchange but you need other roads around Cork and you need public transport.
"There's no area with a congestion problem that doesn't need a public transport solution," he said.
The congestion levels are so bad in Dublin and Cork that the morning peak now begins an hour earlier, at 7am, as motorists leave home earlier in a bid to beat the traffic.
The figures show that the sharpest rise in traffic volumes year-on-year in our cities is on the main road into Galway, where numbers are up 10.4pc.
It is followed by Limerick, up 5.6pc, Dublin (up 4.2pc), Cork (up 3.6pc) and Waterford (up 3.5pc).
In the towns, growth is more modest and volumes actually fell year-on-year in Mullingar and Sligo.
The sharpest rise in towns was in Athlone, up 5.5pc, followed by Portlaoise (up 4.9pc) with only modest increases in Letterkenny, up by 159 vehicles a day to 20,362, an increase of less than 1pc.