In what has been described as “an extraordinary step”, the head of Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s (TII) network operations has written to chief executives of each local authority saying he found it necessary to warn them of the scale of the cutbacks they will have to implement in their 2018 budgets, and the challenge they will face in maintaining the national roads network in their region.
Most local authorities have at this stage prepared and adopted their 2018 budgets, anticipating the same level of funding as 2017 from the TII for ordinary maintenance.
The recent annual budget meeting in Tralee had heard how the grants were already “insufficient” to properly maintain the national primary and the national secondary roads networks in Kerry, which includes some of the busiest tourist routes in the country.
Maintenance grants for the national roads had been drastically cut each year and were less than half what they were in 2008, the meeting was told.
John Brassil, a Fianna Fáil TD in Kerry, said the public would be shocked at the cuts. He has called on Transport Minister Shane Ross to rethink them, saying roads are already in a terrible state.
In the letter to local authorities, TII head of network operations Kevin O’Rourke states: “You will appreciate that areas of expenditure such as winter maintenance and route lighting have limited scope for reduction in expenditure.
“In addition, TII has contractual commitments with regard to motorway and bridge maintenance contracts and salt purchase.
“Taking all factors into consideration, the necessity for significant cuts in the national road ordinary maintenance allocations to local authorities is inevitable.
“At this point, it is envisaged that the 2018 ordinary maintenance allocations to local authorities will be reduced by approx 30% from 2017 levels.”
Even with the possibility of mitigation by drawing down extra funding streams, the cuts would be significant, said Mr O’Rourke.
Combined management of the situation at both national and local level will be critical, he said.
A spokesman for TII this weekend said “safety maintenance” had been prioritised and the impact would be on grass cutting and verge maintenance, patching, and such. Resurfacing would not be affected.
It would be up to each local authority to identify areas most in need along the national routes in their counties.
Mr Brassil said local authorities and the public will be shocked to learn of the cuts, on top of 10 years of reduced funding.
The good work which had been done a decade ago has now almost completely eroded and it was “an extraordinary step” this year that TII had to write to local authorities, he said.
“Roads are already in a severe state of disrepair. Road users can expect to see more potholes and increased damage to their cars and higher repair costs in 2018,” said Mr Brassil.
“Minister Ross needs to review this issue as a matter of urgency. Where exactly is the additional money he secured in Budget 2018 actually going towards?
“It’s perfectly clear from the TII that it is not going towards roads maintenance budgets.”