Local and regional roads are falling into a state of disrepair because the Department of Transport has just half the money needed to ensure their upkeep, resulting in delays of up to four years.
A senior official at the department said the sector’s maintenance budget is hundreds of millions of euro short of what is needed, in part because of drastic cuts demanded during the economic crash.
Speaking at the latest meeting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, department secretary general Graham Doyle said the amount of money available to fix existing roads is “a very significant concern” and must be addressed.
Referencing internal department research, he said at least €530m is needed every year to ensure local and regional roads continue to be kept at a usable standard.
Noting the demands placed on public services during the economic crash, Mr Doyle said the reality is that officials have just 55%-60% of this rate.
Even though the issue is a key part of the Government’s capital plan, he admitted that even if the maintenance budget is increased to required levels, it will still take at least four years to address chronic problems which are putting the public at risk on a daily basis.
“We reckon we need to spend about €530m per annum in relation to the regional and local roads, and we are providing probably about 55%-60% of that at the moment,” he said.
“Under the capital plan and as I said this was a key element of our argument, we will get up to funding those steady State levels over the next four years I think it is.
“But, yes, if we don’t take that action now under the capital plan, it will take more in the longer term and the remediation works would be significant.”
Asked by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy if the situation has been caused by the need to “sweat assets” during the economic crash “to the point they become liabilities”, Mr Doyle admitted the issue has “cumulated over time”.
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