Road projects delayed by 10 years as budget halved
MORE than 120 road projects could be postponed for up to a decade as part of a major review of the national roads programme.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) has been told to re-prioritise 123 projects, ranging from motorways to town bypasses, as part of a value-for- money exercise ordered by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey.
Funding for roads projects is likely to be cut to about €800m a year from 2011 -- half of the €1.68bn allocated for 2008, the Irish Independent has learned.
It means dozens of routes ranging from major schemes -- such as the Galway outer orbital route and the Cork-Limerick road to bypasses of Tralee, Longford and Sligo -- could be delayed for up to a decade.
Mr Dempsey said that projects would continue to go through the design and planning process, but that projects which could be delivered quickly would be given priority.
"There are 123 different projects that they (the NRA) are looking at at various stages, looking to put them in up to 2020," Mr Dempsey told the Irish Independent.
"They have to come back to me and say that on the basis of the budgets, this is the likely timescale (for delivery). The priority is the Atlantic corridor. There are existing schemes going on, and all of those are going ahead.
"It depends on what money we have and what money we can raise through PPPs (public private partnerships) before I can say exactly what's going ahead.
"The NRA are going to be told that [their] budget on an annual basis for the next three or four years will be a €1bn -- it'll probably go down to €800m -- and what can [they] do with this? Tell us what [they] can fit in."
The NRA's funding of €800m will include the cost of paying for projects already completed, and maintenance of the network.
The remainder will be used to fund low-cost projects which do not involve substantial land purchases, major engineering works or lengthy planning hearings.
The revised capital programme announced last month by Taoiseach Brian Cowen proposes spending a total of €6bn on roads up to 2016, and just two are identified as being of "strategic national importance".
These are the Atlantic Road Corridor, which runs from Waterford to Sligo, and the N11 Arklow-Rathnew road, which includes the upgrading of the Newlands Cross junction off Dublin's M50.
However, the NRA is working on rolling out new types of road, and has piloted two road types -- a 2+1 road and a 2+2 road.
The 2+1 roads have two lanes in one direction of travel and one lane in the other direction, which allows for safe overtaking. The lanes change every 2km.
These are used in Sweden, which has large areas of the country with comparatively low flows of traffic using long lengths of single-carriageway primary roads. A changeover to the new road types has resulted in fewer crashes.
The NRA has piloted them on the N20 Mallow-Rathduff road, the N23 Pilltown-Fiddown bypass, the N24 Cahir bypass and the N2 Clontibret-Castleblaney road.
The 2+2 roads are where standard single carriageways are converted into 'narrow' dual carriageways which allow more traffic to use the road, but without investing huge sums. One such road has been built on the N4 Dromod Rooskey road.