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 financial crisis, 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 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.
Project Ireland 2020 does provide for the gradual build-up in funding for the regional and local road network but it will take time to reach the level required even for the basic maintenance and renewal of the network. For this reason, there continues to be very 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. It is important for local authorities to prioritise projects within their overall area of responsibility with these requirements in mind.
Regarding Fintra Bridge the Department has committed and remains committed to assisting Donegal County Council in upgrading the R263 regional road. €150,000 was allocated to this project this year and €22,264 has been drawn down to the end of October. Further monies will be made available in future years as the project progresses.
I understand that Consultant Engineers have been appointed to develop this project through the route selection and detailed appraisal stages of the design process. A public consultation was held in May 2019 and the routes have since been refined. Environmental walkover surveys are to commence on the 26 November 2019. This will provide additional information to inform the route selection process and it is anticipated that an preferred route consultation event will be held in Q1 2020. It is expected that the project will progress to Part 8 planning process and land purchase during 2020.