CONSTRUCTION work on the controversial M3 motorway linking Meath with Dublin is expected to begin before the end of the week.
Transport Minister Martin Cullen yesterday turned the sod on the motorway just outside Navan in a low-key event aimed at stopping opponents of the project turning up to protest.
But the 59km road project, expected to cost between €800m-€1bn, could be in doubt if the Labour Party forms part of the next government.
Local general election candidate Dominic Hannigan said the party wanted the road diverted away from the historic Hill of Tara - a route opposed by archaeologists, historians and the National Museum.
"We would like to see it re-routed while still allowing the bypasses of Navan and Dunshaughlin to go ahead," he said.
"When we are put in government we will immediately sit down with the National Roads Authority and Department of Transport to see what the position is in relation to contracts and what are the get-out clauses."
Described as the longest stretch of new road ever built in the State, the scheme will see almost 60kms of new motorway being built from Clonee in Co Meath to just north of Kells.
The motorway will bypass Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells - notorious bottlenecks - but objectors say it will damage the archaeology of the Hill of Tara.
The Campaign to Save Tara condemned the sod-turning, saying it was unlikely the road would be built along its present route as Opposition politicans had indicated they would review the route to protect the "internationally significant area".
"Minister Cullen's actions are another example of a cheap election stunt," spokesman Michael Canny said.
"The minister is well aware that there has been a number significant archaeological finds along the proposed route and that if these finds are as important as reports suggest, construction cannot begin before the election.
"We are very confident that a new government will move swiftly to instigate a review of the M3. This review will give adequate weight to heritage and environmental concerns."
But the minister said the completed road would aid local economies and improve journey times.
"Once completed, this road project will aid the competitiveness and efficiencies in the economy of Co Meath and other counties served by the N3/M3 route." Work on the second largest road project in the history of the state - the N6 Galway to Ballinasloe road - will also begin later this week.