THE National Roads Authority (NRA) plans to make construction of a motorway outside the M50 and linking Navan to Newbridge a "priority" within the next two years, a conference was told yesterday.
NRA chief executive Fred Barry said once the inter-urban motorways linking Dublin with Cork, Limerick, and Galway were completed in 2010, planning would begin on the Leinster Outer Orbital, which would connect with most of the main routes out of the capital.
And it is understood that the €2bn motorway is at the planning stage after a study compiled by the NRA found it would be a "viable" project.
The authority is also working on plans to build the eastern bypass in Dublin, which would link Sandymount and Portmarnock.
The 80km-long motorway will run outside the M50, linking the M1 near Drogheda, through the N2 at Slane, the N3 at Navan, the N4 at Kilcock, and linking into the M7 motorway at Kilcullen, close to the M7/M9 interchange.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has previously said that while there was "merit" in constructing an Outer Orbital Route, there was no funding set aside in the National Development Plan or Transport 21 to fund it.
But in reply to a Dail question last summer, he said the Programme for Government contained a commitment "to prepare for delivery of the route".
Last night, informed sources said the project was at a planning stage.
"It's still going to be a critical part of our plans," one said. "It connects with all the major routes coming out of Dublin and would allow traffic to bypass the city and allow Dublin focus on its own development.
"The second largest economic hub on the island is Belfast, and this would allow goods and freight to be shipped across Ireland without going through Dublin. It's in the formal study stage, so it's not pie in the sky."
The Transport Ireland conference at Croke Park was also told by Northern Ireland Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy that £3.1bn (€3.8bn) would be invested in roads over the next 10 years.
Included in road schemes were the final stretch of the M1 between Belfast and Dublin, while plans to improve the frequency of the rail service between the two cities were under discussion.
"The two rail companies, the NIR and Iarnrod Eireann, work well together," he said.
"They have provided the North South Ministerial Council with a joint presentation setting out an initial consideration of options for improving frequency and journey times on the Belfast to Dublin service.
"Proposals include increasing the frequency from eight to 13 services each way daily and reducing journey times from 125 minutes to 100 minutes."