LIMERICK’S new €660 million tunnel will be a winner for many race-goers who are Galway-bound next week.
The new route, under the Shannon and bypassing the city centre, will cut up to a half-hour off travel times for many Munster people heading to the west.
The tolled road, costing €1.80 for cars, will open from Tuesday afternoon next.
Tom King, general manager of Direct Route – the company which will operate the tunnel road through a public private partnership – said a huge amount of legal and other documentation was now in the process of being singed off by the National Roads Authority.
He said: “The plan is the Taoiseach Brian Cowen will open the new roadway next Tuesday at 1pm and we hope that traffic will begin to flow by mid-afternoon.”
The tunnel opens up a new western corridor linking Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Clare and the west.
It is expected that up to 18,000 vehicles a day will use the road tunnel.
The tunnel is a key element of Limerick’s new Southern Ring Road, a near 10km four-lane highway. The tunnel runs for 900 metres, of which 675m will be under the Shannon.
The tunnel connects the southern side of the Shannon near the cement factory in Mungret to the northern riverside near the Radisson Hotel on the Ennis Road.
Then transport minister Martin Cullen turned the first sod on the tunnel site on October 26, 2006.
The construction of the tunnel is one of the biggest engineering projects of its kind ever undertaken in Ireland.
The road network on either side of the tunnel will include 11 new access bridges, six underpasses and four interchanges.
The tunnel consists of five precast concrete tubes which were made by Austrian specialists, Strabag. They were floated out on to the river and lowered onto foundations which were set on the river bed.
To lay the tunnel foundations 800,000 tonnes of silt had to be dredged from the river and six million tons of rock placed along the line of the tunnel to stabilise the soft river bed.
As well as cutting travel times between the south and south-west to the west and north-west, it is also expected to boost business in the mid-west and help attract more travel business to Shannon.
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