Thursday, 16 September 2021

Ceisteanna (70, 86)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

70. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport the level of funding in place for N22 surfacing works at Coolcower, County Cork; when contractors will be appointed to carry out the works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44088/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

86. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport the progress being made in making safer the N22 between Macroom and Ballincollig, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44087/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Transport)

The N22 between Ballincollig and Macroom has numerous dangers, including the poor surface at Coolcower just east of the town, and the right-turn junctions at Nutricia, Dunisky, Ballytrasna, Kilcondy, and Castlemore. There are many other junctions where people turn into their own homes. The road needs to be made safer. Will the Minister outline plans to make the N22 safer between Ballincollig and Macroom?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 86 together.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, tells me it has recently approved funding to Cork County Council for a surfacing contract at Coolcower on the N22. TII understands a contractor has been appointed by the local authority and that the works will be completed this year. A previously proposed N22 Macroom to Ballincollig-Ovens major improvement scheme remains suspended due to funding constraints within the current national development plan, NDP, and no further work has been carried out by Cork County Council on planning and design. TII has informed me there are no plans to do any pavement or safety works on this stretch of road at present.

The N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom route, the N22 runs from Cork city to Tralee, passing through several towns and villages including Macroom, Ballyvourney and Ballymakeery. The bypass project includes the construction of a dual carriageway and consists of a 22 km dual carriageway with four junctions beginning west of Ballyvourney, passing north of Macroom and rejoining the existing N22 south of Macroom. The estimated cost of the project is €280 million.

Following approval by Government in October 2019, construction commenced on 6 December 2019, with very good progress being made on site. The construction of the many structures required for the project is almost complete. The longest precast concrete beams in Ireland, 49 metres, were manufactured for a bridge on this scheme and were successfully lifted into place last December. In addition, a large steel deck was successfully launched across a river and valley in March.

Overall, works are approximately midway through construction, with completion expected by early 2024. The N22 project strengthens the links between Cork and Kerry. By reducing traffic volumes on the existing N22 by approximately 12,000 vehicles per day, the project will improve journey times and allow for safer and more reliable journeys for road users.

I acknowledge the planned works at Coolcower. Since tabling the question last week, there was confirmation of the update on the contractor being appointed and works getting under way in the weeks ahead. That is positive. There are other sections of that road, such as the bridge in the town of Macroom itself and sections east of the town, where funding was to be made available and where contractors need to be appointed and works carried out on making that road safer and better. There is a section of the bridge inside the town where there is a trench running the full length of the bridge immediately adjacent to the footpath so that the traffic is almost leaning in on top of the footpath. It is a hazard. It is dangerous and needs to be attended to. If there is funding available, it needs to be released and contractors appointed. Will the Minister confirm that, where funding needs to be made available for these other sections of work, it will be released to the council so that it will be able to carry out works such as the bridge and sections east of the town of Macroom?

On the Macroom-Ballyvouney bypass, €280 million is not a small investment. It is a huge, significant investment. We have to make sure we get the best return from that. In Ballyvourney and the town of Macroom, we have to work on the public realm and get as much traffic as possible out of the centre of town and create what has already happened in other towns in west Cork such as Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Bandon or Bantry where real life has been brought back to their centres and they are vibrant towns. That town, more than anything, deserves to rise and get away from the gridlock it has suffered for the past 20 or 30 years. Talking to Cork County Council last year, it appraised the need for such public realm works. It is about taking out a lot of traffic and parking and creating a good pedestrian space, to my mind.

The budget for that would not come from the national roads budget plan; it is more local. The county council has to allocate a lot of its budgets within its own resources provided by central funding. Those decisions are very much country council oriented, working with our Department. Having spent €280 million on the bypass, we now need to spend on the public realm measures that would see the full benefit.

I need to shift the focus east between the Ballincollig and Macroom section, separate from the bypass. This is a stretch of road where there are repeated accidents. There are very dangerous right-turning junctions such as those at Nutricia, Duniskey, Ballytrasna, Kilcondy, Castlemore and others.

There are more than 30,000 cars travelling at speed via the Ballincollig bypass onto this road every day, in addition to the north-south traffic on the R619 from north Cork, the R585 from the west and traffic coming from Bandon. For the locals, whether they are coming from Aherla, Cloughduv or Crookstown, or even doing the school run over to Coachford College, they are crossing that road four times a day. It is very dangerous for many of them. It is very much a concern. The road east of the town between Ballincollig and Macroom needs to be advanced. It was very concerning that the Minister would say it would be suspended. Plans had been progressing on this for quite substantial works. Even no safety works are planned. Plans had been designed for Castlemore junction, for example, and to hear that those kinds of works would be suspended is very concerning for locals. It needs to be put back on track so the road would be made safer for people travelling daily through these junctions and on these routes in and out, and also for those people passing east to west between Cork and Tralee.

I will conclude by asking the Deputy to cast his eyes even further east. One of his colleagues, Deputy James O'Connor, from the eastern side of Cork, is rightly making the case that towns and villages such as Castlemartyr are currently suffering what Macroom is suffering with through traffic throttling urban and village life. We must think about where is our first priority. I know that section of road very well from Ballincollig. Deputy Moynihan is correct. There tends to be a lot of high-speed traffic. Not only are there a lot of small roads feeding in, there are also many residences along that carriageway that are, effectively, opening out onto a national road. There are very difficult circumstances. I must be hones,t however. I cannot go to Deputy O'Connor to say that his project has priority and at the same time say to Deputy Moynihan that this road also is a priority. Funding every project is going to be difficult given the funding constraints we have. There may be other measures we can look at in the meantime, pending the funding approval. Can we examine the issue of speed on that road for example? If road safety is the key issue, which it is, are there other measures we can implement that may be lower cost but with more immediate traffic management results that might improve the safety performance of the road? This is one of the questions I might put to TII.