Road planners have been warned they could face a European Court challenge if they push ahead with a proposed motorway which will run close to already overly polluted urban areas on the outskirts of Cork City.
The warning came from an experienced environmental engineer and county councillor, who was backed up by colleagues, when she maintained the design of the new Cork-Ringaskiddy motorway (M28) was fundamentally flawed.
Independent councillor Marcia D’Alton said people living around the Bloomfield interchange near Rochestown already suffered from excessive diesel fumes and noise pollution above internationally-recognised limits.
She quoted what are supposed to be acceptable EU and national levels on pollution, which were “already contravened” at the moment in roads around the area and added that additional traffic generated by HGVs (high goods vehicles) from the proposed motorway between Cork and Ringaskiddy would raise them even higher.
Cork County Council engineers are working with Transport Infrastructure Ireland to design the route which is planned to run from the Jack Lynch Tunnel to Ringaskiddy.
The motorway is primarily designed to provide access for HGV traffic which will be generated by the Port of Cork’s plan to turn Ringaskiddy into a major deepwater terminal to handle larger container ships into the future.
Ms D’Alton said that, cognisant of the damaging noise and air pollution associated with heavily trafficked motorways, the National Roads Design Office/Transport Infrastructure Ireland should consider an entirely new route for the M28 which would avoid its running adjacent to residential estates, such as in Maryborough, Rochestown, Mount Oval, and the general Douglas area.
Ms D’Alton said extra traffic generated by increased port activity at Ringaskiddy would have a major impact on raising noise levels and air pollution.
“Residents living in the area already have significant issues with noise,” she said. “Only a certain amount of mitigation can be done with noise barriers and there’s very little we can do about emissions from diesel engines.
The councillor added that recent research carried out in Denmark showed diesel emissions were very dangerous to human health.
“Residents have asked that we look at alternative routes for what will essentially be a freight-carrying motorway,” she said.
Fine Gael councillor Deirdre Forde, who lives in the area, said local residents had “mobilised significant public opinion” against the proposed route.
“There’s already a lot of traffic in the area. The Douglas LUTS [Land Use & Transportation] study confirmed noise pollution is way beyond norms and this isn’t acceptable,” said Ms Forde.
Ms D’Alton acknowledged that as part of the planning application for the motorway an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would have to be put together by engineers.
She added: “It was easy to couch things in the EIS to make it [pollution levels] look OK. But it’s not OK.”
Ms D’Alton said noise and traffic pollution were serious issues which “couldn’t be engineered out” of the project.
Meanwhile, a public consultation meeting will be held in the Rochestown Park Hotel on Saturday, October 22, from 2pm-6pm to explain plans to upgrade the current N28 to motorway status.
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