WEARY motorists who have grown used to the bottlenecks of Abbeyleix and Durrow on their way from Dublin to Cork can breath a sigh of relief today with the opening of the last section of the M8 motorway.
The new stretch of road will reduce the driving time between the cities by 45 minutes.
The route will bypass Abbey-leix, Durrow and Cullahill in Co Laois, and it is estimated the journey time from Dublin to Cork will be just two and a half hours, a far cry from the four and a half hours it used to take in the 70s and 80s.
Work on the motorway has been completed four months ahead of schedule and just in time for the June bank holiday.
It will be followed by the opening of the controversial M3 motorway on June 4.
The 40km, Y-shaped section will take Cork-bound traffic from the Portlaoise bypass to the M8 at Cullahill.
It will also take Limerick-bound traffic from the Portlaoise bypass to Castletown, where remaining sections of the M7 Limerick motorway are still under construction.
The capital investment in the scheme is €491m of both private sector and Exchequer funding.
There is now more than 700km of completed motorway in the country, and the network is undergoing major expansion.
"The completion of the M7/M8 Portlaoise to Cullahill/Castletown heralds another major achievement for Ireland," said National Roads Authority chairman Peter Malone.
"The opening removes historical bottlenecks and improves road safety on both the Dublin to Limerick route and Dublin to Cork route."
Like other motorway networks, the M8 will be tolled.
A toll plaza is to be installed, taking in traffic on both the Limerick and Cork routes and is expected to net millions on the new route alone. The toll will be €1.80 for cars, 90c for a motorbike, rising to €5.70 for heavy goods vehicles.