M3 motorway set to open
The controversial M3 motorway through Co Meath will open tomorrow, potentially cutting journeys between Co Cavan and Dublin by an hour at peak times.
The 60km tolled scheme - with a €1bn price tag - has provoked legal action and angry protests over its route past the historic Hill of Tara.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey will officially unveil the motorway, which bypasses Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells, two months ahead of schedule.
Mr Dempsey said the M3 was one of the biggest road projects to open in Europe this year.
"It marks another major achievement in the Government's delivery of the most ambitious road programme in our history," he said.
"Above all, it will improve the quality of life for the people who travel on the M3 or who live in the towns that are now bypassed."
Campaigners and environmentalists battled unsuccessfully since 2003 to force the Government to re-route the motorway away from the land around Tara.
Around 1,800 people were employed in constructing the M3, with around 80 staff set to work at the its offices and toll plazas.
William Carey, cathaoirleach of Meath Co Council, said the project sent a clear message that the county was open for business and ready to attract jobs.
"The opening of the M3 means a welcome to shorter commuting times, better access for business and tourism and better quality of life, which are immediate tangible benefit for people who live or work in Meath and adjoining areas," he added.
Peter Malone, chairman of the National Roads Authority (NRA), said the new motorway would also make the area's tourist and heritage attractions more accessible for future generations.
"The new M3 provides for safer journeys, enhanced economic connectivity and easier access to and from the nation's capital," he added.
The scheme was completed under the NRA's National Roads programme and is a key part of the plan to upgrade the overall national road network.