RELIEF is finally coming down the road for thousands of urban sprawl commuters stuck in horrendous gridlock between Meath and Dublin.
But the decision yesterday to allow the controversial €800m M3 tolled motorway be built over a national monument has angered objectors who vowed to continue their battle in Irish courts and at EU level.
The National Roads Authority welcomed the Bord Pleanala decision, pointing out that the existing N3 road has one of the highest crash death records in the country, more than 50pc higher than the average main national route.
The new motorway would be far safer, the NRA said. There will be a toll of €1.30 for car drivers.
An NRA spokesman also said the motorway, work on which has already started at the northern and southern ends, passes further from the Hill of Tara that the existing road.
The M3, which has been delayed for several years because of legal challenges, will run 60km from Clonee to Kells and is due to be completed by 2011. The motorway will bypass the towns of Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells.
However, the TaraWatch action group said it planned to make an immediate appeal to the European Commission over the decision of An Bord Pleanala to allow the M3 motorway to be built over the newly discovered Lismullin national monument.
The decision means that the site, close to the Hill of Tara, will be examined and recorded by archaeologists before the road is constructed on top of it.
The Lismullin site consists of two circular enclosures, the largest 80m in diameter, and dates from somewhere between 1000BC to 400AD. Last month, the NRA submitted its plans to preserve the site 'by record' to Bord Pleanala. This means the NRA archaeologists will examine it in detail and then build the M3 over it.
The decision was approved by the outgoing Environment Minister Dick Roche and his successor John Gormley, the Green Party leader, said his hands were tied as the decision had been taken.
An Bord Pleanala approved the Lismullin action yesterday on the grounds that the plan did not constitute a material alteration to the M3 scheme which it had already approved. The authority said it took account of the order by the Environment Minister that the site would be fully excavated and recorded.
This was the last planning obstacle to the construction of the road which has been dogged by delays lasting several years because of legal challenges.
TaraWatch said it was taking legal advice on how to make a direct application to the EU, and ask them to step in and bring the demolition works to a halt. Members are also taking legal advice on whether it will be possible to get an injunction in the Irish courts, to give time to the EU to pursue their legal action.
Spokesman Vincent Salafia said: "The decision of the Bord was made without any public consultation or opportunity for independent assessment to be given.
"That is exactly why the EU is saying the decision to demolish the site is illegal."