TRAFFIC on the M50 motorway is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, the National Roads Authority (NRA) admitted yesterday.
Sweeping new traffic arrangements being put in place from tomorrow are likely to lead to further congestion on the northbound lanes of the motorway, and it will be at least November before things improve.
Outlining the major diversions yesterday, a spokesman for the contractors SIAC Ferrovial said that traffic impact was "unavoidable" and diversions being put in place would take a "significant" period of time to "settle down".
But there was some good news. The N4 interchange is likely to be finished ahead of time, meaning commuters travelling into the city centre from Lucan should see improvements early in the new year.
The major changes affect the N4 (Lucan), N7 (Red Cow) and Ballymount interchanges. Traffic diversions will be put in place from tomorrow so that major works can be completed and the €1bn upgrade finished by its 2010 deadline.
Between now and Christmas there will also be some night-time work on the M50 as sign gantries must be erected, and it is hoped to have sections of the completed motorway opened to traffic in its final layout early next year.
Until then, two lanes of traffic will be open in each direction between 6am and 10pm, but lane reductions may come into effect at night-time. Also from next month, a recovery service will be put in place for the duration of the works in the event of accidents or cars breaking down.
The main changes affect the interchanges as they are transformed into freeflow spaghetti junctions, which will allow motorists to enter and exit the M50 without having to stop at traffic lights. The diversions should be complete by the end of November.
From tomorrow, the main changes to the N7 / Red Cow are:
l The off-ramp from the M50 southbound to N7 outbound (to Naas) will be closed. Traffic will continue to the Ballymount interchange where it can u-turn back to the N7 using a dedicated freeflow lane. This will be in place for up to four weeks. In early November, the new link from the M50 southbound to N7 outbound will be substantially completed and opened and the u-turn at Ballymount will cease.
l In mid-October, a new freeflow loop road allowing traffic coming from Naas on the N7 to enter the M50 southbound will be opened.
The main changes to the N4 (Lucan) interchange are:
l Traffic from the city centre going onto the M50 northbound will no longer be diverted via the Liffey Valley junction as a new freeflow loop roads will be opened.
l Vehicles coming from the city centre, and entering the M50 southbound lane, will be diverted via the Liffey Valley junction before making a u-turn and heading back towards the city centre where they can use a slip road to gain access to the southbound M50.