I thank Deputy Munster for this question, which is very important in her area. 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. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the council.
Prior to the financial crisis, applications for funding for road improvement projects would have been considered as part of the specific improvement, strategic, regional and local road grant schemes. However, the extent of the cutbacks in grant funding during the crisis meant that 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.
The national development plan provides for the gradual build up in funding for the road network but it will take some years yet 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.
Any 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, and the overall roads budget. To date, no application has been received by my Department from Louth County Council in relation to the port access northern cross road. It is of course open to the local authority to bring forward a proposal subject to the public spending code and capital appraisal framework. It would then be considered in conjunction with other proposals, taking account of limited resources.