Friday, 19 January 2007

Roads, roads and more roads ...

Forget the need for public transport, here's more spending on roads ...

Mr. Dick Roche, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government today (18th January '07) announced details of the 2007 grants to local authorities for non-national roads. The Minister said that he was delighted to announce €607.525 million for the non-national roads network – the highest ever level of funding available. He said that it also represented a substantial increase of 9%, or an increase of over €50 million, on last year's record allocation which topped the half billion euro mark for the first time ever.

Double 1997 Investment
Minister Roche said "The 2007 allocation is well over double the 1997 State grant allocation for non-national roads and four and a half times the 1994 allocation. This year's allocation of over €600 million shows this Government's continuing commitment to improving our non-national roads network, which is critical from economic and social perspectives."

Importance of Regional and Local Roads
Pointing out that regional and local roads constitute 94% of the overall network, carrying 60% of all road traffic, the Minister highlighted the economic role they serve in the Irish context – often the sole means of access for local economic activity.

Non-National Roads: Major Success Story of National Development Plan
The Minister said that the non-national roads measure was one of the major success stories of the last National Development Plan and continues to be one of the best performing measures under both the South East and BMW Regional Operational Programmes.

Expenditure Ahead of Target
Expenditure in both regions was well ahead of target for the period of the plan. Expenditure in the BMW region was €1.304 billion compared to a target of €1.08 billion – that is €224 million or over 20% ahead of target. Expenditure in the SE region was €1.837 billion compared to a target of €1.35 billion – that is €487 million or 36% ahead of target.

Total expenditure in the two regions in the 2000 - 2006 period was, therefore, €3.141 billion against a target of €2.43 billion – in other words, a level of investment that was €711 million or almost 30% ahead of target.

Next NDP 2007-2013
The Minister said he looked forward to the announcement of details of the 2007 to 2013 National Development Plan next week, which will once again demonstrate the Government's commitment to improving and maintaining this vital infrastructure.

Minister Roche continued, "The Restoration Programme continues to be a central part of the Non-National Roads Investment Programme. The results of the 2005 Pavement Condition Study and Review of Pavement Management Systems have shown that there has been a very large growth in traffic volumes and the number of heavy goods vehicles on our roads over the last 10 years."

The Minister added, "The overall conclusion of the 2005 study was that the existing Restoration Programme requires re-focusing to increase the relative level of funding to counties that have the greatest identified pavement strengthening needs. That is necessary if counties having the highest proportion of deficient roads are to have their needs addressed in a reasonable timescale. Accordingly, this year I am continuing the process, which I commenced in 2005, of re-focusing priority investment under the programme to areas of most need. This year, I am allocating a sum of almost €225 million for the Restoration Improvement Programme. This is an increase of almost €20 million, or 9.6%, on the 2006 allocation. This very substantial increase will allow for an increased allocation to every single County Council in 2007 over its 2006 Restoration Improvement grant allocation. It also means that continuing progress can be made in allocating funds to address the deficiencies identified in the Pavement Condition Study."

Restoration Maintenance grants are also being increased to €81 million this year. This represents an increase of €6 million, or 8%, on the 2006 allocation. The Minister said, "This increase is essential to preserve the investment by my Department under the Restoration Programme for non-national roads since 1995. All County Councils will benefit equally from this increase."
€46.35m for continuing initiative on Strategic Non National Roads
The Minister also announced grants in 2007 for the provision of large schemes that make a significant contribution towards the National Spatial Strategy. He said, "Non-national roads are strategically important – locally, regionally and nationally. They are a key component in our national infrastructure. As such, they play a crucial part in delivering the vision of the National Spatial Strategy for sustainable, more balanced development of our country." He continued, "I'm particularly pleased to announce the provision of over €46 million in grants for New Strategic Non-National Roads Schemes this year." 24 projects are receiving allocations under this scheme in 2007, including the Waterford Airport Road, the Moyross Access Road, the Clonmore Link Road in Mullingar and the Western Distributor Road in Sligo town.

Moyross Access Road
The Minister was particularly pleased to allocate a grant of €500,000 to Limerick City Council for the design of the Moyross Access Road. He said, "This proposed new road will bring significant benefit to Moyross by opening up the estate for social, community and economic development and I look forward to working with Limerick in advancing this work as quickly as possible."

Road Safety
Referring to the proposed new Road Safety Strategy for 2007 to 2011, the Minister announced that he was more than doubling the funds for the Low Cost Safety scheme of grants. Under this scheme, grants are provided for improvements at locations that show possible accident contributory factors or an accident pattern that may respond to low cost road measures. In 2007, works will be carried out at over 300 locations.

20% Increase in Funds for Local Improvement Schemes
A total of €30 million has been set aside this year for the Local Improvements Scheme. Under this scheme, grants are made available to County Councils for the carrying out of road works on private roads. Works carried out provide improved access for people in isolated and depopulated areas. "Bearing in mind that the 2006 allocation was double the previous year's allocation, I am sure that County Councils and local communities will welcome this further increase for the Local Improvements Scheme", said the Minister. Details of the scheme will be announced at a later date.

Other Key Aspects

Other key aspects of the 2007 allocations are:

§ Over €96 million for specific non-national road projects which promote employment and economic activity.

§ Almost €34 million for projects which will assist housing, commercial and industrial development. Among the existing schemes which will benefit in 2007 are the Oranhill Distributor Road in Galway, the Naas Ring Road, Wicklow Town Relief and Port Access Road, the R158 Trim to Kilcock Road and the Corbally Link Road in Limerick.

§ Discretionary Maintenance and Improvement Grants of €29.56 million and almost €25 million respectively to County Councils.

§ A total sum of €16 million in Block Grants, as well as €17.2 million in Special Block Grants for Carriageway and Footpath Repairs, to City, Borough and Town Councils.

§ Grants totalling €7 million to continue progress on the regional roads signposting programme, which commenced in 2003.

§ €1.714 million for the Non-National Roads Training Programme.

§ €2.215 million to Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford City Councils in Regional Traffic Management Grants.

§ Almost €2m has also been set aside for the provision and improvement of footpaths in former Town Commissioner areas. This is a continuation of the new grant category introduced in 2005, and the 2007 allocation is double the initial 2006 allocation.

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