THE Port of Cork has suffered a setback to its plans to open a €226 million container terminal at Ringaskiddy in 2011.
The blow came when National Roads Authority officials told a Bord Pleanála hearing yesterday that at best it could start the vital upgrading of the Cork-Ringaskiddy road (N28) in 2011, and it would take a further two years to complete.
The Port of Cork management has previously stated it would not make the container terminal operation until the N28 was in place.
NRA officials warned the upgrading of the road would be competing against other projects for funding, not just in Cork but nationwide. They also pointed out they would prefer to undertake the work with just one project, rather than doing it piecemeal.
While the Government’s National Development Plan includes reference to upgrading the N28, any work will be dependent on Exchequer funding.
Paul Moran, NRA manager for regional schemes, said it was premature to speculate on a construction start-up date for the project. However, he said, realistically the project was unlikely to begin until at least the start of 2011, and construction could take about two years to complete.
It is envisaged the road will be a dual carriageway capable of handling 44,100 vehicles a day.
Compulsory Purchase Orders and Environmental Impact Statements are being worked on by the NRA and it was pointed out the cost of acquiring land would be substantial.
Mr Moran said if construction of the port went ahead before the road was upgraded, it would lead to extended rush-hour periods as traffic backed up.
He added that in this case it would be up to the Port of Cork to provide a plan to mitigate this disruption.
“It does appear the existing N28 is at overcapacity at peak periods, particularly at the Shannonpark and Shanbally roundabouts,” Mr Moran said.
He added that upgrading the N28 was primarily for the benefit of the Port of Cork generated traffic.
The NRA said port authorities should therefore be paying an appropriate contribution for the upgrade, so as to protect the taxpayer from the cost of inappropriate subsidisation of a private development.
“No plans are currently in hand to carry out any capital works to augment the Jack Lynch tunnel, to provide an additional River Lee crossing in the vicinity of the tunnel,” Mr Moran added.
He said the junction at Dunkettle caters for 103,000 vehicles a day, which may no longer be sustainable.
“From the NRA’s view, it’s an extremely important junction. We are looking at medium and long-term improvements there,” Mr Moran said.
However, he pointed out traffic jams at the junction should be eased when the Cork-Midleton railway line was opened and more commuters switched to the train.