I thank the Ceann Comhairle and his office for facilitating me in raising this matter. The N22, which travels from Cork city westwards through Macroom and onwards to Ballyvourney, Killarney and towards Tralee, is the major access artery for the economy of the south west. That economy is the quintessential mixed economy, being dependent on foreign direct investment but also the indigenous industries of tourism, agriculture, food processing, the fishing industry and forestry. In fact, along this stretch of road can be found very significant timber processing and food industry activity.
The case I am making is that it is good planning to make preparations now for the future. I really appreciate that the Minister for Transport is in the Chamber for this discussion. This stretch of the N22 may not be upgraded today or tomorrow but we need to do the planning for it today and tomorrow. This project represents the last clasp in the necklace of the N22. There is already significant investment being made in the road, including in the Macroom bypass. In fact, that project represents the single biggest investment in Cork by the State since its foundation, at a cost of more than €300 million if one takes into account the pre-construction costs. In addition, there was the previous investment in the Ballincollig bypass. The upgrade to which I refer today would link those two investments.
The project encompasses approximately 24 km of route. It includes 25 significant junctions, many of which have seen serious and sometimes fatal accidents.
Along the route are several businesses, the village of Lissarda and the smaller settlements of Srelane and Farran. It is also adjacent to Farnanes. It is a very busy artery. With regard to traffic, the traffic data site of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, has some interesting information. It says that, in 2019, there was an average of 13,614 vehicles on the stretch of road between Lissarda and Macroom every day. On the same route, the stretch between the Ballincollig bypass and Ovens, at the other extreme of the road, saw 22,016 vehicles per day. By comparison, over the same period in 2019, there was an average of 12,000 vehicles per day on the stretch of the M8 between junctions 3 and 4. There is less than half the level of traffic on an existing national motorway than on part of this route. All of those in the villages, businesses and individual residences on this roadway are living a nightmare. The level of traffic outside their doors daily is really challenging from the point of view of quality of life, not to mention the risk these people must take every day when entering and exiting their properties.
Given that the local authority, in conjunction with the National Roads Authority, ten years ago sterilised a preferred route corridor, which has now lain in splendid isolation for more than a decade, we should now begin more detailed preparatory work and invest in design, land acquisition and all other necessary preparatory works. As I have said, we will not build this today or tomorrow but, as inevitably as night follows day, when the Macroom bypass is finished, the €300 million investment in which is really welcome, there will be the same bottlenecks coming off it as we see coming off the Ballincollig bypass, which will continue. There are tailbacks of ten, 15 or 20 minutes most evenings of the week caused by traffic going home from the city. It is prudent to invest in preparatory work now so that when the lightbulb moment arrives and we decide we need to invest, we can press the go button and tender for construction.