I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.
The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for each local authority.
My Department has been in regular contact with the parties involved in the project referred to by the Deputy and I have been kept informed of developments.
Unfortunately, on the basis of the tender prices received, the cost of the project is well beyond that projected. Louth County Council would be required to fund the shortfall and as it is beyond their capacity to do so, a decision to put the project on hold has had to be made.
Due to budget cut backs my Department has had to curtail its own investment on major new / improvement projects in recent times to focus available funds on necessary maintenance and repair work and therefore is not in a position to make up the shortfall identified. While my Department would be willing to consider helping to make up some of the shortfall, Louth County Council and the Department of Regional Development would also have to do so.
There does not appear to be strong support for doing this given the need to prioritise road maintenance and restoration over new projects and the fact that there are many other new bridge and new road projects that have a much higher benefit to cost ratio than Narrow Water. I am very disappointed that it has not been possible to find a contractor willing to build the bridge for the estimated cost.