Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has ordered a halt to new road construction and diverted €40m in existing funds for the repair of damaged routes.
The Fine Gael minister also called on certain local authorities to take more responsibility for carrying out emergency repairs on roads, rather than relying on direct central government grants.
“It’s obvious to anyone who lives or drives through rural areas that some road surfaces are in need of repair. As well as the usual winter damage, increasing rainfall levels have caused significant damage in recent years. Surface water is a particular problem because it undermines roads and causes potholes.”
Mr Varadkar said that overall the conditions of roads, particularly motorways and primary regional roads, were good. However, there was a real and growing problem with local and in particular, some regional roads in rural areas.
He admitted local authorities as well as his own department had not had enough funds to deal with the damaged or rundown routes.
The construction of new routes in the immediate future has been stopped, it was announced.
He said he was reallocating €40m that local authorities could now use on maintenance and repairs rather than just road improvements.
“That’s not new money, that’s just the same money that they can reallocate.”
A further €2.7m will be spent on drainage works to prevent further deterioration of some roads.
However, the minister warned that people would be disappointed with a further reduction in funds for road maintenance next year.
“Because resources are so limited, this focus on road maintenance means it won’t be possible to start any new local or regional road construction projects in the next couple of years.”
He pointed out that two thirds of motor tax payments by drivers went back into local authorities, but added: “Some local authorities aren’t putting enough of that discretionary income into the roads. I’m really calling on those local authorities to boost their budgets in that area in particular.”
He said he did not have the authority to instruct them how to spend those funds.
“One might contribute 18% of the cost of the roads, another maybe 34%. And then you’ve some local authorities particularly in the cities who cover the vast majority of the costs of maintaining the roads.
“It’s going to require local authorities taking their responsibilities a bit more seriously in prioritising road allocations.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved