Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (63)

Imelda Munster

Question:

63. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the preliminary appraisal for a bypass of Julianstown, which was submitted by Meath County Council to his Department and Transport Infrastructure Ireland in December 2018; the decisions taken; when he plans to proceed with the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29566/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

Will the Minister provide an update on the preliminary appraisal of a bypass of Julianstown? It was sent to his Department by Meath County Council last December. Will he provide details of any decision taken by the Department and does it wish to proceed with the project? When will that happen?

I thank Deputy Munster for her question. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant county or city council in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the councils' own resources, supplemented by State road grants. Prior to the financial crisis, applications for funding for road improvement projects would have been considered as part of the specific improvement and strategic regional and local road grant schemes. However, the extent of the cutbacks in grant funding during the recession meant these grant schemes had to be curtailed after 2013 because expenditure on maintenance and renewal was falling well short of what was required to adequately maintain the regional and local road network.

Project Ireland 2040 provides for the gradual build-up in funding for the road network but it will take some time to reach the level required for the adequate maintenance and renewal of the network. For this reason there is limited scope for funding projects under the specific and strategic grant programmes. The primary focus is on implementation of the 12 regional and local road projects identified for development, subject to necessary approvals, in Project Ireland 2040. Any additional projects proposed by local authorities for consideration under the specific and strategic grant programmes are assessed by the Department on a case-by-case basis. All projects put forward by local authorities for consideration must comply with the requirements of the public spending code and my Department's capital appraisal framework, and it is important for local authorities to prioritise projects within their overall area of responsibility with these requirements in mind.

Under the capital project appraisal process, a preliminary appraisal must be submitted for each proposed project. In this context, the National Transport Authority's transport strategy for the greater Dublin area provides the overall policy framework for transport development in the region. As part of the corridor options appraisal, the strategy considers the measures needed to meet travel demand on the economic Drogheda to Dublin city corridor and focuses largely on public transport options and improved rail services. The proposed electrification of the rail line to Drogheda under Project Ireland 2040 reflects this approach.

The draft preliminary appraisal received from Meath County Council regarding a bypass of Julianstown will therefore have to be considered with the above factors in mind. Against the backdrop of the need for action to address climate change and limited resources, I am conscious that investment has to be focused on the projects which best deliver on the Government's overall policy priorities and this means looking critically at proposals for new roads where public transport is being enhanced and where investment has been already made in high quality infrastructure, such as the M1.

The report assessed four separate solutions, as well as a "do nothing" scenario, and the bypass of Julianstown emerged as the preferred option not only in the multi-criteria analysis but also in the preliminary cost-benefit analysis. The cost was expected to be in the region of €20 million but the estimated benefit over the lifetime was to come to €80 million.

I do not know if the Minister personally had the chance to read the preliminary appraisal sent to his Department but this is a small, picturesque village with approximately 600 people living there. There are 20,000 cars and heavy goods vehicles travelling through that village every day. When the motorway was planned, the idea was that it would take all that traffic away from Julianstown but it has not done that. There are still 20,000 vehicles per day going through the village so not only would the bypass reduce travel time, it would also reduce the carbon footprint. We are in the midst of a climate emergency and the objective is to reduce our carbon footprint. Will the Minister and his Department, therefore, reconsider the project in order to give it priority?

My Department will liaise with Meath County Council on the appraisal. I have taken note of what the Deputy has to say and I hope she has noted also what I have to say and considers it in that light.

There are commuters from Laytown, Bettystown, Drogheda and Julianstown driving through this stretch of road on their way to and from Dublin. The corridor between Drogheda and Dublin city centre is forecast to see the highest growth in transport demand up to 2025. The road is not fit for purpose for the volume of traffic. Given that we are in the midst of a climate emergency, will the Minister prioritise this project? Funding the bypass would take 20,000 vehicles per day out of a village with a population of 600 people.

I will take the Deputy's comments to Transport Infrastructure Ireland and my departmental officials.