The development of Cork's North Ring Road has taken a step forward after tender documents were issued this week for three initial phases of the long-term project.
The planned new motorway will link the Dublin M8 to the planned M20 Limerick road and then on to the south Ring Road near Ballincollig.
Cork City Council and Cork County Council in partnership with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) issued the tender documents this week seeking technical consultants and advisors for the initial three phases of the project.
They will examine the feasibility of the development, whether it meets strategic development plans and engage in stakeholder engagement including public consultation on the planned new road before a decision is made to proceed with its construction.
The North Ring Road is considered key to opening up the north side of the city and suburbs to further development and business expansion. It also aims to reduce traffic congestion in the city and cater for future planned developments at Monard and Kilbarry.
The preferred route for the development was agreed more than a decade ago but the economic crisis in 2007 meant the project remained undeveloped until it was included in the Government's Ireland 2040 plan announced last year.
The tender documents said the North Ring Road represents a flagship project and consideration must be made for future technologies such as connected and autonomous vehicles.
The contractors must also set out potential tolling options for the road. However, the tender documents state that the rationale for deploying tolls has significantly evolved from when the current set of Irish toll roads were planned and said the clients and the TII Board will ultimately decide whether to progress or not with the tolling option.
Business groups in Cork have long called for the development of the North Ring Road. The CEO of Cork Chamber Conor Healy said the route is an essential piece of infrastructure for the north side of the city.
"It is positive to see the Cork North Ring Road move to concept, feasibility and options appraisal which is an essential step in addressing the infrastructural deficit on the north side of Cork city," he said.
"The road will facilitate regional and local goods movements, and remove heavy commercial traffic from the north side of the City. Done right, the Northern Ring Road, can play a major part in the roll-out of comprehensive sustainable transport infrastructure within our City, in residential centres such as Blackpool, the Glen, and Ballyvolane, which are so heavily dominated by regional traffic movements at present."