I propose to take Questions Nos. 517 and 518 together.
The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a statutory function of each local authority under the Roads Act 1993, as amended, with works funded by Local Authorities’ own resources supplemented by State road grants, where applicable. The initial selection and prioritisation of works is a matter for each local authority.
There were major cutbacks in funding for the road network in general during the recession. Project Ireland 2040 provides for a gradual increase in grant assistance for regional and local roads and there has been a significant increase in Exchequer funding particularly in the last two years - the €483 million allocated this year represents an increase of nearly 50% compared to 2017. However, the amount available is not sufficient to achieve “steady state” levels of investment. For this reason, there continues to be very limited scope for funding road improvement projects under the Specific and Strategic Grant Programmes.
Within the budget available to my Department, grant funding is allocated on the basis of grant programmes and not on the basis of the category of road. My Department does not, therefore, have the details sought by the Deputy regarding funding for regional roads since 2016. The allocation of funding across specific roads or across categories is a matter for each local authority, having regard to the funding available to it from local and central sources as well as its particular priorities.
The main Regional and Local Road Grant programmes are focussed on specific policy objectives i.e. surface sealing to protect the road surface from water damage, road strengthening based on pavement condition rating to lengthen the life of roads and a Discretionary Grant Scheme which allows for a specified range of activities including winter maintenance. These 3 grant programmes account for most of the grant funding and are allocated taking into account the length of the road network and traffic factors in a particular local authority area.
The regional road network is an important component of the overall road network comprising over 13,000 kms and carrying approx. 30% of national road traffic. It is a requirement of Exchequer grants that at least 15% of the road strengthening grant is spent on regional roads.
A road condition survey of the whole regional road network was completed in 2011 and a new survey commissioned by my Department was undertaken in 2018. The results of this survey give a national overview of the current condition of the regional road network. As part of the survey various parameters were measured, including visual rating (PSCI), international roughness index (IRI), rut depth, mean profile depth (MPD) and Characteristic SCRIM coefficient (CSC). In general, the average values for each parameter were very similar in 2018 and 2011, despite the significant drop in investment in the same time period. Important values like IRI and PSCI had actually shown an improvement since 2011.
Nevertheless it is the case that there is still significant ground to be made up to improve the condition of regional roads. In light of the survey results, this year I introduced a pilot scheme to assist with the rehabilitation of former national roads.
The findings of the national survey have been conveyed to each local authority and can, therefore, be used to inform their prioritization of works and the allocation of grant funding and local authorities' own resources.