THOUSANDS of drivers gave a sigh of relief yesterday after a section of the Gorey bypass in Co Wexford was opened.
Travelling the scenic route from Dublin and Wexford, via the new 13.5km section of the N11 Arklow to Gorey road, they shaved 12 minutes on average off their travelling time.
However, some motorists said that while the new bypass was welcome, many believed Gorey town would suffer due to a cut down on passing trade.
The €195m project is coming in several weeks ahead of schedule. Contractors Roadbridge Ltd officially started work in November 2005.
National Roads Authority chairman Peter Malone said that road users would "no longer have to endure lengthy delays through Gorey, which has for many years been one of the worst traffic congestion blackspots on the national road network". The area is a busy commuter town.
Mr Malone said the bypass will improve the quality of life for the people of Gorey as they go about their daily business by removing 10,000 vehicles a day from the town.
The entire 22km stretch is scheduled to open in September and will "provide an incentive for jobs and development as well as a boost for tourism along the east coast," added Mr Malone.
The first phase of the scheme stretches from Tinnock, just north of Gorey, to the existing N11 south of Clogh. The bypass includes new grade-separated junctions at Raheenagurren and Tinnock as well as a tie-in junction with the existing N11 south of Clogh.
Access to the holiday resorts along the north Wexford coast such as Courtown, Ballymoney and Ardamine will be greatly improved. Journey times will be reduced by an average of 12 minutes.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said the bypass is "great news for the thousands of drivers who use this route every day."
The Arklow to Gorey scheme is part of the Government's strategy to improve the Dublin to Wexford/Rosslare route to motorway/dual carriageway standard.
Within Co Wexford, work is well advanced on the planning of the N11 Enniscorthy bypass, while planning is getting under way on the Clogh to Enniscorthy section.
The Arklow to Gorey scheme was funded under the National Development Plan.