There is no funding in place to upgrade the Jack Lynch Tunnel/Dunkettle interchange and Iarnród Éireann has no plans at present to build a station nearby — despite both projects being essential to ease traffic gridlock.
The National Roads Authority has completed the overall design, compulsory purchase orders, and environmental impact assessment necessary to comply with planning approval for the €90m upgrade of the busiest junction outside of Dublin.
However, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has confirmed that money is not available for the project.
He made the disclosure to Fine Gael colleague David Stanton, who had warned the scheme was critical to the transport infrastructure of Cork City and its environs.
“This project was approved by An Bord Pleanála in May 2013 and will allow for free-flowing traffic in north-south directions in addition to the current east-west free flow,” the Cork East TD said.
“A number of measures are also planned to remove local traffic from the interchange. The only impediment to progress now is funding.”
The NRA has long identified problems at the junction, which caters for more than 76,000 vehicles a day and which links the M8 with the N40 and N25.
The junction is extremely congested at peak times which, in turn, affects travel times for commuters and commercial traffic.
Mr Stanton said longer journey times for private and commercial traffic entail costs to commuters, businesses, and the State.
“Minister Donohoe acknowledged that the project is very important to the infrastructure of the Cork region. But he advised that despite its importance, he is not in a position to allocate this level of additional funding to the NRA to allow the project to progress at this time, which is disappointing.”
Mr Stanton said he was aware that other options, such as a public private partnership, are available to the NRA to complete the Dunkettle upgrade.
“The options, however, would still require substantial lump-sum funding. I intend to keep pushing for the need for monies to be made available to allow the construction of this vital piece of Cork transport infrastructure to progress.”
He said the Government might also pursue a loan from the European Investment Bank.
Meanwhile, Iarnród Éireann says it has no plays in the short term to build a park-and-ride station just north-east of the Jack Lynch Tunnel at North Esk.
Three years ago, the NRA successfully objected to the company’s plans to build one there, saying it needed the land it was earmarked on to upgrade the tunnel interchange.
A spokeswoman for Iarnród Éireann said no money had been provided by the National Transport Authority for the venture under its financing plans up to the end of 2018.
Unless the Jack Lynch Tunnel/Dunkettle interchange is upgraded, it could cause serious difficulties for the Port of Cork’s plan to upgrade its cargo-handling facilities at Ringaskiddy.
The company previously had plans turned down by An Bord Pleanála for an upgrade at Ringaskiddy.
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