Deputy chief executive and director of economic development at Cork City Council, Pat Ledwidge warned that without the northern ring road, traffic coming into the city from a newly-constructed motorway would be a “horror story”.
As it stands, traffic comes from Limerick around Blackpool while Dublin traffic comes through the Dunkettle interchange near Glanmire.
He said: “What the northside of Cork city lacks is the northern ring road — when you look at it, that’s a no brainer.
"As far as the city council is concerned, if the M20 between Cork and Limerick is a priority, then the northern ring road is just as important.
"If not, all that M20 traffic into Blackpool is going to be a horror story. Even if they did the other side from Cahir, you’ll have all traffic hitting Dunkettle. It’s hard to imagine how difficult that would be.”
While Dunkettle is approved for an upgrade in the capital investment plan, the northern ring road is not.
When originally planned, the €500m dual carriageway would have seen traffic diverted from near the Glanmire bypass all the way to Ballincollig, taking thousands of cars away from the city centre traffic daily.
It was scrapped during the financial crisis but business leaders in the city say it it vital for Cork’s economic future.
Chief executive of Cork Chamber, Conor Healy said it was a major piece of infrastructure for Cork.
“We need it back on the agenda in terms of investment — in reality, it will mean medium-term but in terms of opening up the northside of the city, which has been underdeveloped for more than 20 years, I see it as linked to the M20,” he said.
The IDA has said it would make Cork’s northside a better sell to foreign direct investors if a northern ring road was in place.
A spokesperson said: “Access is an important part of a location’s offering to an FDI company. IDA would welcome improved access to the site.”
Newly-elected Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald said it was vital for the city’s economic progress.
He said: “It would transform the city. It would create new development opportunities and the means to more fully develop the economic and employment generating potential of the entire northern part of the city.
"Work on this project was suspended a number of years ago but it now needs to be reactivated and progressed.”