With the eight potential routes for the new N11/N25 Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour Scheme now generating some serious discussion in the affected areas, perhaps the number one question on people's lips is: 'Why are we back here again?'
Around ten years ago, a route corridor for the project had been identified, however, with the country recovering from a major recession, funding never materialised and it was put on the back burner. With Brexit on the horizon and Rosslare Europort now seeing some long awaited investment, the timing has never been better to re-visit the project, but certain processes have to be followed in order to get it over the line.
'It's quite simple really,' said Director of Services at Wexford County Council Eamonn Hore.
'The last time we looked at this was 08/09 to 2011, where we identified a route corridor. In the intervening years, there's been changes in the law as to how routes for projects like this are selected, particularly in terms of environmental factors and cost-benefit analysis. Most older schemes that are being looked at again have to go back through the process; if they don't, they could run into trouble when they reach An Bord Pleanála stage.'
'We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't have to,' Mr Hore continued. 'The corridor selected initially does form a part of this review and the consultants will use information gathered from last time, but over the past 12 to 13 months, they've been gathering a lot more information and, for that reason, we have a timeline in place that will see a route corridor selected in January, which will get rid of some anxiety for people, and then about 12 months after that we will have selected the route for the road within that corridor.'
Mr Hore stressed that environmental impact measures were a factor, with the routes crossing the Slaney and passing so close to other protected areas. While in the past, mitigation could be undertaken after the route was selected, now a plan has to be put in place beforehand.
Despite having to go through the process again, Mr Hore said that while a 300m route had been selected on the last occasion, the funding is in place this time to get this to a selected route to go to An Bord Pleanála within 18 months. The next issue facing the road from there will be the availability of funding with Ireland still counting the cost of Covid-19.
'This will bring certainty to it,' Mr Hore said. 'We will end up with a specific route within 18 months. The timing is really good with Brexit and investment in Rosslare Europort so there's never been a better chance for Wexford to put this in place and get it done.'
Further coverage in this week's Wexford People newspaper