The Cabinet is expected to approve within days the awarding of a contract for the multi-million overhaul of the Dunkettle interchange in Cork.
It follows a more than year-long delay on the awarding of the main building contract after contractors Sisk and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) failed to agree a price on the key works element of a road scheme which has been estimated by some to cost anything from €115m and €170m.
Sisk won the two-stage contract for the overall upgrade in 2018 but the project was delayed in August 2019 when it emerged that TII and Sisk had failed to reach agreement on forecasted costs for the main construction works. Complex ground conditions across the vast site were blamed.
The contract allowed TII to go back to the market and seek new tenders.
While that retendering process rolled on, Sisk continued the advance works elements, including the diversion of gas, electric, telecoms and water infrastructure, and the construction of a new link road to connect the N8 with the M8 Cork to Dublin motorway, which includes a separated cycleway and pedestrian path.
It is understood that the new tendering process has been completed and that all that remains now is Cabinet approval.
It is expected that a memo will come before Cabinet next week.
The critical junction on the eastern outskirts of Cork city, at the intersection of the M8/N8 Dublin to Cork road, the N25 Cork to Waterford road and the N40 Southern Ring Road through the Jack Lynch Tunnel, handles some 100,000 vehicles a day.
The upgrade will include the removal of traffic lights from the Dunkettle roundabout and the construction of several new roads to create a largely free-flow interchange.
Delivering the works on such a critically important junction has been described as having to “perform open-heart surgery on a conscious patient while they are travelling to work”.
As well as managing existing traffic, the contractors will have to build:
- a series of direct road links between the N8, the N25 and the N40, and links to the R623 in Little Island and Burys Bridge in Dunkettle;
- a grade-separated junction arrangement at the existing N25 to the east of the existing Dunkettle interchange;
- four roundabouts — two at the grade-separated junction and two at tie-ins with the existing road network;
- several culverts where the scheme crosses watercourses or intertidal areas;
- and new pedestrian and cyclist facilities.
Some of those new cycling and pedestrian facilities, which will help link city cycle routes to those proposed in Glounthaune and Little Island, are due to open within a matter of weeks.