THE National Roads Authority has given the green light to Limerick City and County Council for a new, multi-million euro road to Foynes, where harbour throughput is expected to double over the next 30 years.
But it will be the end of 2014 before the exact route of the new road will be selected, Jeri Howard, executive engineer at the Mid-West Road Design office confirmed this week. The brief is for a high-quality road linking Foynes to the N18 and M7 in Limerick and there are a lot of options open to the council, Mr Howard explained. The upgrading of the N69 was just one option while linking Foynes to the N21 was another.
But, Mr Howard stressed, all options would be looked at before a short-list of four or five possible routes is drawn up. The public will be consulted once the short-list is ready, he told the Limerick Leader and again after the final route is selected.
“We are at a very early stage,” Mr Howard said, explaining that the council has just begun the task of procuring engineering consultants and expects to appoint them early next year. Meanwhile, the Shannon Foynes Port Company has hailed the development as a “game-changer” and one which will be vital to realising its 30-year master plan.
“This is a hugely significant moment in realising the enormous investment and employment potential of the Estuary,” Pat Keating, chief executive of the port company said.
“We are planning to double tonnage at our ports and anticipate significant job creation on the estuary over the next 30 years,” Mr Keating continued. “The road link is an absolutely essential piece for us. We have a huge opportunity to attract investment and industry over the coming decades thanks to the advantage that the estuary’s unique deep-water gives us. But we will not be able to deliver on these plans unless there is a quality transport network.
“Heavy goods traffic alone could increase by as much as 350% over the life time of our Vision 2041masterplan. The N69 is inadequate as things stand, let alone with a tripling of heavy goods traffic. The development of this high quality road to connect Foynes with Limerick is, therefore, essential. Otherwise growth will be seriously constrained and opportunities will be lost.”
The port company does not have a route preference. “We warmly welcome the commitment to develop this road regardless of which route is selected,” Mr Keating said.
But the company also remains committed to re-opening the rail link from Limerick to Foynes as part of its masterplan. “Agreement has been reached with Iarnrod Eireann to carry out preliminary planning and environmental studies which will bring us to the tender stage for the reinstatement works,” Mr Keating said. “We have committed €150,000 to this preliminary planning stage, which will be concluded late next year.”
Meanwhile, local public representatives have warmly welcomed the announcement about the new road.“ I am heartened that despite the economic downturn that investment in new transport infrastructure continues to be made,” Cathaoirleach John Sheahan said while his Fine Gael colleague, Cllr Stephen Keary, who has been lobbying Transport Minister Leo Varadker on the matter, said it was a “very positive beginning”. The new road, he said, was vital for Foynes port and other industries along the estuary but would also open up the potential for tourism in the area.
Cllr Kevin Sheahan has raised the hope that building a new road to Foynes might bring relief to traffic-congested Adare. At the very least, he said, it might assist in putting the Adare by-pass actively back on the agenda. “I am sure that is another issue the consultants can look at,” he said.