THREE "new" motorways in the Limerick area are set to open by the end of August, according to the Department of Transport.
It's not a matter of the National Roads Authority completing projects in record time as the roads are already built. But using powers under the Roads Act of 2007, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has at the stroke of a pen designated almost 300km of national primary roads and dual carriageways as motorways.
It means that the speed limit on roads around Limerick increases from 100kph to 120kph except for where a special speed limit applies, such as the 50kph speed limit approaching the Rosbrien interchange to facilitate construction work there.
The roads include the 8.5km Limerick Southern Ring Road (Phase One) from Annacotty to Rosbrien; and the 5km section of the main road to Cork (N20) as far as Attyflin/Patrickswell.
The section of the N18 from Shannon to Galway has also been designated as a motorway although construction between Limerick and Shannon to facilitate the Limerick Tunnel project means the 100kph limit remains in force here.
Sean O'Neill, NRA, told the Limerick Leader that these roads have all been completed to "high quality dual carriageway standard" by the contractors appointed by the Authority.
"In terms of the road engineering and the quality of the design, there is no difference between a high quality dual carriageway and a motorway. It is only a legal distinction," said Mr O'Neill, explaining the legalities related to restrictions of particular road users and the maximum allowable speed.
Minister Dempsey's move means that the above roads will be off limits from August 28 for learner drivers, vehicles with engines under 50cc, vehicles not capable of a speed of 50 kph, pedestrians and cyclists.
Speaking on Monday, Minister Dempsey said: "By declaring these sections of road to be motorways, it will create uniformity of speed limits across major sections of the national network and protect this major public investment from inappropriate development. The primary function of a national motorway network is to allow people, goods and services to travel safely and efficiently throughout the country."