Transport minister Pascal Donohoe has sparked a furious row after again postponing the proposed €1bn Cork-Limerick motorway.
The motorway could slash 30 minutes from the commute time between Ireland's second- and third-largest cities - and remove some of the most dangerous stretches of single-carriageway primary road in the country.
The N20 Cork-Limerick road suffers from some of Ireland's worst accident black-spots - particularly around the infamous Limeworks in Buttevant, which has been the scene of multiple fatal accidents.
It was hoped the motorway would also ease congestion - with major bypasses of towns such as Mallow, Buttevant, Charleville - and enhance access to areas such as Croom.
Mr Donohue stunned Cork and Limerick councils by refusing to allow the project even go to the planning stage.
Both have now demanded an emergency meeting with Mr Donohue to discuss the reasons for the decision and its implications.
The Dublin TD has indicated he will meet with Cork and Limerick delegations this month.
The planning request had been lodged by the National Roads Authority (NRA), which has identified the proposed M20 Cork-Limerick motorway as one of Ireland's priority road projects.
Business and political groups in Cork and Limerick have now expressed outrage and claimed the Government's refusal to even allow the project go to planning stage could stall it by as much as a decade.
Cork Councillor Kevin O'Keeffe said the decision was "a body blow" for both the south-west and mid-west regions.
"It is a disaster - it is one of the worst decisions I have ever come across in terms of short-sightedness," the Fianna Fáil official said.
Cork business leaders claimed "insult was added to injury" by Mr Donohue, indicating that his Department does not even have funding for the €14m relief road around Mallow, a key element of the overall project.
Mallow Chamber of Commerce is to discuss the ruling at its next meeting as an emergency issue with congestion already a major issue in the north Cork town.
Traders warned business will be hit unless congestion is eased.
Business leaders admitted it was an open secret the Government didn't have the funding for the entire €1bn blueprint.
However, the refusal to even sanction planning for the project stunned advocates.
Development Minister Sean Sherlock, a Mallow-based TD, warned it was all about funding.
"There just is not enough money to progress the project at present because of a price tag of more than €1bn," he said.
"It certainly was being given consideration, but the price tag at his juncture is just too high."
But he insisted that progress may be achieved in the Mallow relief road.
Cork councillors warned the Government against any similar delay with upgrading the Cork-Ringaskiddy road, which has been identified by the IDA as critical to supporting the booming healthcare, pharmaceutical and chemical industries by Cork's deepwater port.