THE CONTROVERSIAL M3 motorway is understood to be nearly a year ahead of schedule and it is hoped it may open to traffic in advance of the official completion date of June 2010.
The progress on the project has been welcomed by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey, who is a TD for Co Meath.
However environmental group TaraWatch has repeated its call for the scheme to be cancelled and a heritage trail to be created, which, it said, would bring more benefit to the county.
The motorway passes through the rich archaeological landscape of the Tara-Skryne valley. Last year a national monument was discovered in the middle of one of the lanes of the motorway itself.
Mr Dempsey said: “I am acutely aware of the pressures that Meath- based commuters face day in, day out and I know what a difference this new motorway will make to their quality of life once it is completed. We all want to cut journey times and travel on safer roads. The M3 will deliver on both of these fronts.”
This was reiterated by the road safety officer for Meath County Council, Michael Finnegan, a retired Garda chief superintendent. “The sooner it is completed the better,” he said. “Motorways are acknowledged as being the safest type of roads and I welcome the progress made on the M3.”
However, Vincent Salafia, TaraWatch spokesman, said: “I believe this is spin and the motorway is not due to open until 2011. We are in uncertain times and this is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
He claimed the current economic climate meant the project was now “economically unviable”. Instead the group wanted a heritage trail or park developed, which, it said, would economically benefit the county more than the motorway.
Meath County Council has disagreed, saying the motorway would boost the county as a prime business location.
“The M3 will open up the heart of the county and Navan, Kells and north Meath should benefit greatly from improved access to the wider Dublin region and beyond,” the council’s director of economic development, Kevin Stewart, said.
A well-placed source close to the project said it was going “exceptionally well”. It is estimated that building works are at least 10 months ahead of schedule.
The National Roads Authority declined to comment.
The 60km motorway will link Clonee, in south Meath, with Kells, in the north of the county, and will bypass Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells, with a toll at either end.
It will take traffic from the existing N3 Dublin-Cavan road, one of the principal routes linking Dublin to the northwest and one of the busiest primary routes in the country.
The Irish Times