Executive staff of Cork County Council, backed by elected members, have warned the Government any attempt to re-route a proposed motorway link between Cork and Limerick through Tipperary would be a disaster for the economies of North Cork, Kerry, and West Limerick, writes Sean O'Riordan.
Senior officials and county councillors were responding to unconfirmed reports the Government may resort to including a large part of the existing M8 Cork-Dublin motorway for a long-awaited improved intercity link between Cork and Limerick.
Some proposals suggest forcing traffic into South Tipperary — where it would connect to a new motorway linking Cahir and Limerick — would be financially more viable than a direct route from Cork through towns such as Mallow and Charleville.
However, Cllr Gerard Murphy told colleagues the council must act to ensure a direct route is built.
“The importance of the direct route cannot be underestimated,” he said.
“Any change in the proposed route would completely cut off North Cork, Kerry, and West Limerick from the rest of the country. We need the route to go ahead as planned, with proper access routes to Mallow, Buttevant, Charleville, West Limerick, and Kerry.
“Have no doubt, there is pressure mounting to change the route.”
He pointed out businesses in the Munster region have given their overwhelming support to the proposed M20 motorway, with 98% stating that a direct connection will enhance economic linkages between Cork and Limerick.
Initial findings from a Red C Research survey of businesses, conducted as part of a study into the proposed motorway, also found a large majority believe it would lead to increased road safety.
Cllr Frank O’Flynn said he was aware of demands for the motorway to be built to Limerick from the M8 near Cahir in Co Tipperary.
“The future of the whole Mallow area depends on a direct Cork-Limerick motorway,” he said. “We’re the only country in Europe where the second and third cities are not connected.”
Cllr Gearoid Murphy said not having a direct route would increase the carbon footprint, as vehicles would travel further if forced through South Tipperary.
The council’s director of roads Tom Stritch said he had no doubt the Government would examine the possibility of building a motorway link somewhere between Mitchelstown and Cahir to Limerick, but he pointed out council officials wanted a direct route between the two cities providing access to Mallow, Buttevant, and Charleville.
Mr Stritch said officials were liaising with Limerick County Council on the matter.
Cllr Tim Collins said the present main road between Cork and Limerick was very dangerous in sections. He said it was, therefore, imperative a new motorway be built directly to make travel between the two cities safer.
Mr Stritch also said Jacobs Consultants were expected to finalise by the end of next month, or early June at the latest, a feasibility report into the building of a northern relief road around Mallow.
Assistant county manager James Fogarty said the road was vital to prevent Mallow grinding to a halt.
“The relief road could be built three years ahead of the motorway and we’re pushing for that,” said Mr Fogarty.
It was indicated if funding was immediately available to build the motorway, it would take at least six years to complete.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.