STATE payments to landowners for new roads has almost doubled in six years, government officials confirmed last night.
The proportion of the road-building funds being paid to farmers and other landowners has jumped from 12pc in 2000 to 23pc last year.
In 2006, €360m in taxpayers' money was paid for land for road construction. The big increases have led to the launching of a review of land costs for transport projects.
Last night, a Transport Department official said the increase in the cost of land purchases was in line with overall land price inflation and the rising cost of homes and commercial property in recent years.
Almost a quarter of all spending on roads is going into the pockets of farmers and property owners to compensate them for the loss of primarily agricultural lands throughout the Irish countryside.
Farmers are getting tougher in their negotiations with officials when requested to hand over land to roadbuilders.
Department officials have acknowledged that the increasing share of road construction funds going to landowners can result in lessening the amount of roads that can be developed within the current limits.
Some €18bn is being invested in the current nine year national road building programme.
As concerns continue about the need to adhere to cost guidelines, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has been informed that the potential cost of changing the route of the controversial M3 motorway route in his Co Meath backyard would cost up to €200m.
The current route, which passed near the Hill of Tara, is expected to be completed, if unaltered, within three years at a cost of €750m.
Proposals to build a ring road far outside the M50 linking Drogheda, Navan, Naas and Celbridge is being considered. Dubbed the 'Leinster Orbital Corridor', the road is intended to link all the country's major motorways in an expanded circle outside the current ring road around the capital.
An estimated €60m would be needed for pre-construction development.
The road would link routes such as the M1, the N3 and N4 and would link in with the N7/N9 interchange on the main roads to Cork and Galway.
With two million cars expected to be on Irish roads by 2016, the Leinster Corridor proposal has not yet been fully costed.