FROM THE ground the new M3 motorway looks, for the most part, finished. Sections are indeed complete, with motorists already using interchanges and bypass roads, particularly at the southern end, and it’s hard to believe that it won’t be open to traffic for almost another year.
From the air, though, it’s a different story. The Irish Times was yesterday taken on an aerial tour of the route, one of several helicopter flights taken by the National Roads Authority (NRA) each year to monitor the progress of the road.
Just over the Dublin-Meath border where the road begins at Clonee, it looks ready to use, with a black asphalt surface already laid in places. Moving north towards Kells, heavy machinery, diggers and cranes continue to work on long stretches on what appear to be the basic outlines of junctions and interchanges.
Certain features are identifiable along the route. At almost the mid-point, the Hill of Tara can be seen about 2km to west. A little closer to the east is the Hill of Skryne, on which the remains of a medieval church are clearly visible.
From ground level on top of the Hill of Tara, the new road cannot be discerned. The current N3 is visible, but the new motorway will be slightly further away and the NRA says it will not be visible from Tara. However, no cars currently travel the motorway and there is no lighting, which might in time make the road more apparent from the hill.
The proximity of the motorway to the Rath Lugh hill fort is far more stark. The road does not go through the fort, but skirts it incredibly closely, to the extent that a “crib wall” has been constructed against the fort wall to secure the earthen structure.
The road also skirts the national monument at Lismullin. As this site has already been preserved and covered by a farm access road, nothing remains to be seen.