Seanad Éireann - Volume 185 - 22 November, 2006
Mr. Dooley Mr. Dooley
Mr. Dooley: I thank the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, for coming to the House to respond to the issue I raise. As he is aware, a river crossing in a well-known scenic area of County Clare, Killaloe, connects the county with County Tipperary. We, in County Clare, try to avoid connecting with County Tipperary around Munster final time. The crossing is also one of the major gateways to east Clare from the east coast. The greater east Clare area is one of the most beautiful areas in the county and is popular with tourists. The outdated bridge at the crossing effectively causes a blockade. As the bridge has certain characteristics which prevent it from being widened, it is necessary to construct a new river crossing at Killaloe.
I am aware the Department and Clare and Tipperary county councils have engaged in discussions to find an optimum route for a new river crossing. I understand agreement has been reached and a route identified as a result of this consultation process. I ask the Department to expedite approval for the river crossing project to allow it to go to tender.
I understand Clare County Council, Tipperary North County Council and the Department have been involved in discussions to ensure the river crossing links into the new bypass which will connect Limerick to Nenagh and that a bypass will be provided for Killaloe. As it is set on the river bank, the streets of the town are narrow, giving rise to traffic congestion. It is important the construction of a new river crossing will include provision for a bypass to ensure the bottleneck is not moved from one point to another. I hope the Minister of State will seriously consider expediting the process.
I compliment the engineers in Clare County Council and Tipperary North County Council on the work they have done to get the project to its current stage. I impress on the Minister of State the great necessity to have this project delivered without delay. The current river crossing creates an encumbrance on the economic life of east Clare. Killaloe has been connected by road with Ennis due to improvements in the road network from Ogonelloe through to Scarriff. The upgrade of this road has resulted in a greater volume of traffic avoiding Limerick city. While it may not have created a rat run, it has opened up a new corridor for drivers seeking to avoid Limerick as they travel to other parts of County Clare. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of delivering this project without delay.
Mr. B. O’Keeffe Mr. B. O’Keeffe
Mr. B. O’Keeffe: I thank the Senator for raising this important issue in the Clare area. It is also a matter of concern within the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I also welcome the opportunity to outline the progress being made in the significant resourcing of non-national roads in general and to outline the position on these schemes.
In January this year the Minister announced a record allocation of almost €558 million for non-national roads in 2006. This is more than double the 1997 allocation and well over four times the 1994 allocation. The 2006 allocation for regional and local roads is the highest ever State grant provision for such roads and represents a 13% increase over the record 2005 level. In making this provision, the Government was again delivering, as it had in previous years, on its commitment to ensure an adequate financial base for the non-national roads programme.
In accordance with Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993, the construction of non-national roads, including bridges, in its area is a function of the relevant road authority. Work on developing a proposal for a new Shannon crossing has been undertaken by Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary County Councils. From 2004 to the end of 2005, grants totalling approximately €282,000 have been provided to these authorities to develop proposals for the provision of a Shannon crossing.
Clare County Council is the lead local authority for the Shannon crossing and in 2006, a grant allocation of €50,000 was provided to the council for the project under the new strategic non-national roads grant category, which was introduced this year. Under this scheme, grants are provided for schemes which make a significant contribution to the implementation of the national spatial strategy.
To date, a constraints study and route selection study on a Shannon bridge crossing and associated roads have been completed. I understand from inquiries made of Clare County Council that the preliminary design of the preferred option for the Shannon crossing has been also recently completed. Both Clare and North Tipperary County Councils are currently preparing a brief for the appointment of consulting engineers to undertake a constraints study, a route selection study and preliminary design for a bypass of Killaloe and for an upgrade of the R494 regional road between Birdhill and Ballina. The councils are also proposing that the consultants will prepare an environmental impact statement and compulsory purchase order for all three schemes, the Killaloe bypass, the R494 upgrade and the Shannon bridge crossing.
Further progression of these schemes is a matter for the relevant local authorities and further details of the proposals are awaited in the Department. Given the Senator’s interest in the matter and its urgency, I will make inquiries of Clare County Council to ascertain the exact position. The question of further grant aid to facilitate the development of the proposals will be considered early in the new year in the context of the 2007 non-national road grant allocations.
Mr. Dooley Mr. Dooley
Mr. Dooley: I thank the Minister of State for that detailed response to this straightforward question and for the efforts he is making in co-operation with the council. We have been critical in the past that the Department and the council have not worked closely together but it is clear they have a clear focus on what is needed in this instance.
Seanad Éireann 185 Road Network.