Council ‘fortunate to get bypass funds but maintenance will suffer’

A local authority conceded it was “fortunate” to have already received the bulk of funding for a county town’s bypass road, in advance of continuing government cutbacks on road maintenance.

The 13.5km Tralee bypass is due to be completed by Apr 2013. However, Kerry County Council is likely to face difficulties in maintaining its national roads network this year.

Senior roads engineer Ger MacNamara told yesterday’s county council meeting that Kerry had received €25m for the long-awaited Tralee bypass, at a time of cutbacks in overall national funding.

Presenting the council’s 2012 roads programme, he said the increased grant for the bypass resulted in a €7m rise in the county’s allocation for national roads to €42m.

The total roads budget in Kerry for 2012 has jumped by 11% to €62.5m.

However, the council will not be able to employ the same number of temporary roads staff as before, the meeting heard.

The Tralee bypass, which will intersect the Listowel, Killarney and Killorglin roads, is one of the largest ever investments in a single infrastructural project in Kerry.

Mr MacNamara said work was progressing well, with 150 people employed in the construction phase.

As well as relieving traffic congestion in Tralee, he said, the bypass would improve journey times and lead to better road safety.

Mr MacNamara said the good news on the bypass was the “calm before the storm”, as there could be difficulties with road maintenance arising from cutbacks. Funding for local and regional roads was the same as last year, having been reduced significantly in 2011, and no money was being provided for local improvement schemes, he said.

Mr MacNamara added that maintenance grants for national routes, down 22%, were inadequate. Only a small percentage of such roads would be resurfaced annually, inevitably leading to a deterioration in the driving surface.

Last year, €274,000 was spent on resurfacing national secondary roads but there is no money for resurfacing this year.

“There could be serious difficulties here, if the need for work arises. We’re heading in a downward direction,” Mr MacNamara said.

He said the council was looking at new technologies, including the on-site recycling of road materials and revised work procedures to ensure value for money.

Fine Gael Cllr Patrick Connor-Scarteen, while welcoming the increase in the overall roads budget, said the abolition of the local improvements schemes was disappointing.


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