The delayed multi-million upgrade of the Dunkettle interchange in Cork, one of Ireland’s busiest intersections, is on course to start in Autumn.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has confirmed that it expects all tenders for the massive scheme on the eastern outskirts of the city, estimated to cost in the region of €150m, to be submitted by the end of this month, with the contract for main construction awarded in time to allow work to start on site by September or October.
The interchange is used by about 100,000 vehicles a day and experiences chronic congestion at peak hours.
One source said the proposed upgrade, which includes the removal of traffic lights from the Dunkettle roundabout on the northside side of the Jack Lynch Tunnel and the construction of several new roads to create a largely free-flow interchange, will be like “performing open heart surgery on a conscious patient while they are travelling to work”.
It is hoped the upgrade will cater for forecasted traffic growth up to 2050.
Sisk won the two-stage contract for the upgrade in 2018 but the project was delayed last August when it emerged that TII and Sisk had failed to reach agreement on forecasted costs for the main construction element.
Complex ground conditions across the vast construction site were blamed for an increased cost estimate.
Reports at the time suggested the overall costs could now range from anywhere between €115m to up to €170m.
The contract allowed for TII to go back to the market for tenders for the construction element.
Sisk continued on advance works including the diversion of gas, electric, telecoms and water infrastructure, the construction of a new link road to connect the N8 with the M8 Cork to Dublin motorway, to include a separated cycleway and pedestrian path.
Experts connected to the project have said that one of the biggest challenges facing engineers will be the complexity of managing a large, live and complex construction site while maintaining a “functional interchange”.
It is expected the scheme will open in stages during 2022, with full completion in 2023 - 12 months behind schedule.
Confirmation of the timeline follows the installation on the N40 in recent days of the first of several large electronic gantry signs on the approach roads.
The eight-metre wide variable message signs -VMS) will be a key part of the project's communication strategy.
The first VMS was installed on the N40 carriageway eastbound at the Bloomfield junction. It will be commissioned over the coming weeks.
A second VMS is due to be installed on the N40 eastbound near St Finbarr’s GAA club pitches, followed by a third at the Sarsfield Road roundabout. They will all be installed overnight to minimise disruption to traffic.
Meanwhile, Cork County Council has awarded a €2.1m contract to Lagan Asphalt Ltd to conduct road resurfacing, major road reconstruction, traffic calming, drainage and other works along 8kms of road at seven locations, as well as the resurfacing of a large car park in Bantry town.
Council chief executive, Tim Lucey, said the works tie in beneficially with the council’s €6m fund designed to support county towns as the Covid-19 lockdown eases.