I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this very important issue for the Commencement debate, and Senator Boyhan for chairing this session. The Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, is very welcome. I hope he has some good news for us in terms of the new bridge for Newbridge, which is my new mantra. I will put it up on everything that I do.
Everyone in the House, in the Dáil and in the area around Newbridge will know I am practically blue in the face from raising this issue. I have repeatedly called for a second bridge in Newbridge. I am confident there has been some progress on it and Kildare County Council is working to put in place what is needed from its end to find a solution. The bridge we need over the River Liffey is not just a bridge in its own right as it is part of an outer distributor ring road. The bridge is one quarter of the solution. With Kildare County Council working proactively with developers and the industry, we are three quarters of the way there. At national level we need funding for the bridge itself.
The people of Newbridge and the surrounding areas can wait no longer. This has been in every development plan for Newbridge for the past 20 years. It is vital infrastructure and has to be delivered. I know the Minister of State is familiar with the part of Newbridge I am speaking about. There are five schools practically on the bridge itself. There is a church and a number of crèches and doctors' surgeries. There are more than 1,500 houses in the eight housing estates that access the town through the bridge. It is ridiculous that in 2022 we still rely on one bridge that leads right into the centre of the town. It causes pandemonium, particularly at rush hour and when schools are opening and closing. I have to add at least 30 minutes to my journey every morning when I drive to Leinster House. This is indicative of what people experience and that is on a good day.
I am very proud to see Newbridge continue to grow and develop as a commercial heart. We have seen major investment by Primark and Lidl. Pfizer continues to grow its operations and staff numbers increase year on year. We are also home to a large number of independent family-run businesses. This is very positive. It concerns me when I speak to people, particularly from outside Newbridge, for example, in Milltown, Athgarvan, Rathangan and the Curragh, who say the problem with the traffic in Newbridge, which is directly linked to the bridge, puts them off going into their main regional town. They prefer to go elsewhere to spend their money. There is no doubt the lack of a second bridge is not only causing problems now but it is also hindering the potential for growth in Newbridge. Traffic and congestion are a major issue for everybody. The system we have in Newbridge is not fit for purpose. We do not have a proper traffic management plan. This is mainly down to the bridge.
We should use our development levies. For example, there was €7 million for the Primark distribution centre. In Kildare we have an agreement that 71.8% of commercial development levies go to roads. We need co-operation at a national level. We want to see the Department working with Kildare County Council to provide this vital infrastructure. I have further questions but I look forward to hearing the initial response of the Minister of State.