As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme. Once funding arrangements have been put in place with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
This is also subject to the requirements of the Public Spending Code and necessary statutory approvals. In this context, TII is best placed to advise on the current status and funding of proposed national road projects in west County Cork.
Noting the above position, I have referred your question, on this occasion, to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.
Regarding the R586, 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 Exchequer road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.
The major cuts to funding for regional and local roads during the post 2008 recession resulted in the build-up of a substantial backlog of works across the country. As the length of the regional and road network in Cork is about 12% of the total, the Cork County share of the estimated backlog would be over €600 million.
Because of the pressures on the regional and local road network, over 90% of available Exchequer grant assistance to local authorities is being directed to protection and renewal works rather than roads upgrades.
Under the NDP there has been significant increases in grant support to local authorities in recent years. In this context Cork County Council has been allocated €68.5 million in grant funding this year. As grant funding for the maintenance of regional and local roads is allocated to local authorities on a pro-rata basis, determined mainly by the length of the regional and local road network in the county, the fact that Cork County Council has the longest road network is reflected in its grant.
As regards the R586, Cork County Council received an allocation of €325,000 this year under the Specific Improvement Grant Programme to progress the road re-alignment at Ilen Bridge on the R586. The drawdown of funds for a project in any particular year as well as implementation of the scheme is the responsibility of the Council.
Any projects proposed by local authorities for consideration under the Specific/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 the Department's Capital Appraisal Framework (CAF). Given the limited funding available for road improvement works it is important for local authorities to prioritise projects within their overall area of responsibility with these requirements in mind. Any projects put forward for consideration are assessed taking competing projects and available budgets into account. The Department has not received any further applications from Cork County Council for additional specific improvement works on the R586.
It should be noted that Exchequer funding for regional and local roads is intended to supplement realistic contributions from local authorities’ own resources. As the statutory road authorities for their areas, it is open to local authorities to reprioritise investment towards regional and local roads.