Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has said he cannot see the proposed €800m Cork-Limerick (M20) motorway opening before 2023.
The project has been mothballed because of the state of the public finances, but in the meantime, Cork County Council officials hope Mr Varadkar will sanction a number of smaller projects along that route.
County manager Martin Riordan, county engineer Noel O’Keeffe, and the Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Tim Lombard (FG), led a delegation to meet Mr Varadkar and outline to him their wish list.
Top priority is a new northern relief road for Mallow, which will cost in the region of €21m.
The council is also looking for the upgrading of a narrow section of road on the N20 at Velvetstown, north of Buttevant, which will cost €6.5m, and a €5m realignment of the notorious bends south of the town at Ballybeg.
The council also hopes Mr Varadkar will release €14m to build a 3.6km-long relief road at Charleville and upgrade the streetscape in Buttevant, which will cost €4.5m.
The county manager told Mr Varadkar he wants the M20 to go ahead as €20m has already been spent in the planning stages and nobody wants to see that money wasted.
Mr Riordan called for a slower spend over a longer period of time so that the benefit of the work already done is not lost.
Local Fine Gael TD Tom Barry and junior Labour minister Sean Sherlock were also part of the delegation.
Mr Barry said: “The minister assured the deputation that the M20 is a priority for the country. It’s definitely not gone, it’s just a matter of how we approach it in the coming months and years under serious budget constraints.”
He said in the interim a strong case was being made for a northern relief road in Mallow.
“In Mallow, we have a situation where there is going to be €150m spent in the middle of the town and €5m outside the town, which is guaranteed from Dairygold alone.
“Mallow could see a €200m spend with no infrastructural improvements at all, and that infrastructure must be prioritised,” Mr Barry said.
“Counties like Cork are going to double our milk production to meet our targets. We need the road network to make this possible. I stressed to the minister that you need to prioritise the spend according to the maximum financial return. This is about job creation.”
Mr Sherlock said in the absence of the Cork-Limerick motorway, the council tabled its Plan B.
He also said that given the major plans Dairygold has for Mallow, it was imperative that a northern relief road be built to accommodate an increase in traffic.
“The minister asked for discussions to take place on the projects between Cork County Council and the National Roads Authority,” Mr Sherlock said.
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