The controversial M3 motorway in Co Meath is more than one-third complete and likely to open well in advance of its autumn 2010 deadline, the National Roads Authority (NRA) said yesterday.
Speaking at the announcement of NRA spending provisions for 2008, authority chairman Peter Malone revealed construction of the 60km motorway had been divided into four distinct projects by builders the Eurolink consortium. Each of the projects was bidding against the others to be the first to deliver a completed section of motorway, said Mr Malone.
While Mr Malone declined to say exactly when the €900 million M3 was now expected to be completed, he said he had been told this week that 36 per cent of the work had been done.
Construction contracts were signed last March and work began in earnest almost immediately. Extrapolating only on the basis that 36 per cent had been completed in 10 months, construction would take about 27 months altogether, leaving the motorway complete sometime in mid- to late 2009.
However, opponents of the route of the M3 said the battle was far from over yesterday. Vincent Salafia, who took a High Court challenge in a bid to stop the road going ahead, accused the NRA of engaging in "propaganda" instead of addressing the ongoing issues with regard to national monuments and an EU case against Ireland.
"It seems they are basically admitting they have rushed ahead when there is one case before the courts, the serious prospect of a second case and pressure on [Minister for Environment] Mr Gormley to intervene."
Mr Salafia referred to a case being taken against Ireland in the European Court of Justice claiming that a new environmental impact assessment should have been undertaken when the Lismullin archaeological site was discovered.
The motorway will have two tolls and will link Clonee on the Dublin and Meath border with Lisduff on the Cavan side of the Meath/Cavan border. It will include 50km of ancillary roads at a construction cost of €650 million. Funding is provided by the Eurolink shareholders which includes Irish firm SIAC and Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA (Cintra). Cintra is a subsidiary of Grupo Ferrovial which was involved in building the N4 motorway, which opened about one year ahead of schedule.
The Irish Times