DRIVERS will soon be able to go 20kmh faster on the main inter-city roads.
The country's dual carriageways, stretching more than 800 kilometres, are to be re-classified as motorways.
This means that the speed limit on these roads will increase from the current 100kmh to 120kmh.
The move was revealed yesterday by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey who said the decision was being taken for safety reasons.
He said there was now little or no physical difference between dual carriageways and motorways.
The National Roads Authority has however been alarmed at the level of housing and commercial 'ribbon' developments permitted alongside dual-carriageways. When these developments are being built new access slip roads and junctions are also created.
New NRA research has shown that 26pc of road deaths and 50pc of all crashes occur at junctions where drivers are making right-hand turns off roads and this is a growing problem on dual-carriageways where planning permissions are granted for developments with access roads to the dual-carriageway.
Legislation is to be passed next week which will clear the way for the NRA to re-classify the country's dual-carriageways as motorways.
The NRA said yesterday it would move "very quickly" on the reclassification as soon as it gets the green light next week from the minister.
The Irish Independent has learned that it will will involve all of the dual carriageways on the main Dublin to Cork , Limerick, Galway, Wexford and Waterford roads.
The Atlantic corridor between Limerick-Ennis-Tuam will also be affected.
Up to 800km of dual-carriageway will be involved in the changeover due to be completed by the end of the year.
Mr Dempsey said yesterday that there were major differences between the access and development controls that apply to the two road types.
Development beside and access to motorways was far more stringently controlled than in the case of dual carriageways.
The Minister said he intended to make orders declaring certain high quality dual-carriageways to be motorways. This was needed to protect the investment being made in the national road network and to help prevent premature obsolescence of the network by developments alongside the roads. At the moment a road can only legally be a motorway if it has gone through the planning process under a Motorway Scheme.
The new legislation will create a straightforward process where a minister can declare that dual carriageways are now motorways. There will be a public consultation process before the reclassification takes place.
"The key consideration is safety here because of inappropriate development along dual-carriageways which created multiple access points," an NRA spokesperson said yesterday. "The more access points you have on dual-carriageways, the more accidents you have."