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 Council's 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/renewal was falling well short of what was required to adequately maintain the regional and local road network.
Project Ireland 2040 does provide 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 at present 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 has to be submitted in relation to each proposed project. Once an appraisal is received it is assessed taking into account other competing projects, the overall regional and local road capital budget and the wider transport planning framework.
In this context the National Transport Authority's Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016 to 2035 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 focusses 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 focussed 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 already been made in high quality infrastructure such as the M1.