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 the local authority.
Before the recession, local authorities could apply on a regular basis for grants for Specific (schemes costing less than €5m) and Strategic Improvement Grants (schemes costing more than €5m) for the strengthening, widening or realignment of regional and local roads. However, the extent of the cutbacks in grant funding during the crisis meant this grant scheme had to be curtailed from 2013 because expenditure on maintenance/renewal was falling well short of what was required to adequately maintain the regional and local road network.
The current Capital Plan does provide for the gradual build-up in funding for the road network but it will take some time yet to reach the level required even for the basic maintenance and renewal of the network. For this reason, there continues to be limited scope for funding new or additional projects under the Specific and Strategic Grant Programmes.
Any projects proposed by local authorities for consideration under these 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 the Department's Capital Appraisal Framework (CAF). Given the limited funding available for RLR improvement works it is important for local authorities to prioritise projects within their overall area of responsibility with these requirements in mind.
As required under the project appraisal process Meath County Council submitted a Preliminary Appraisal in relation to improvement works on the R156 in October this year. In view of budgetary constraints all applications received from local authorities have to be assessed taking into account competing projects and the available budget.