THE Jack Lynch Tunnel is to close overnight for six months as it is brought up to new EU fire-safety standards.
The tunnel -- which runs underneath the River Lee and Cork harbour -- ranks as one of Ireland's busiest road arteries with 65,000 vehicles now using it daily.
The 610-metre tunnel was first proposed in 1978. It opened in 1999 after a €130m development programme.
However, the EU introduced tough new fire-safety protocols in the wake of a disastrous accident in an Alpine road tunnel.
Now, the four-lane Jack Lynch tunnel will be closed on weeknights from 8pm to 7am to allow its operating systems and interior structure to be brought into line with the new fire-safety standards.
The most intensive part of the upgrade programme will be the fitting of special fire-resistant cladding to all its walls and ceilings. The closure begins in October and is expected to last until late March. The National Road Authority (NRA) confirmed that the work is expected to cost €5m.
The NRA also said that the tunnel will, if necessary, be opened to cater for special events such as major sports finals or cultural festivals.
Cork City Council has signed contracts worth €100m for two new flyovers on the South Ring Road, which is the main access route to the tunnel.
These will replace the Sarsfield Road and Bishopstown roundabouts.
Meanwhile, construction of the €97m 13.5km Tralee bypass is due to begin in a few weeks and will provide up to 150 jobs during its 21-month building phase.
Contracts were signed yesterday by Mayor of Kerry Pat Leahy and BAM Civil Ltd, who won the tender to build the road. The Kildare-based company was also responsible for the Castleisland bypass that opened last year.
The project will involve the construction of 8km of dual carriageway to the east of the town as well as a 5.4km single carriageway linking the bypass to the N22 Killarney road.
When completed the bypass will connect four of the five national routes -- the N21, N22, N69 and N70 -- that currently end in Tralee.