Just under 300km of roads upgraded to motorway
JUST UNDER 300km of dual carriageway linking Dublin with Cork, Limerick and Galway has been redesignated motorway.
The alteration will produce an almost continuous motorway linking Athlone to Dublin as the Kinnegad to Athlone route is among those reclassified.
The 40km stretch connecting Cashel to Mitchelstown - which is due to open next Friday - will extend the length of motorway on the main Dublin to Cork route.
In total, 10 sections of road stretching 292km are affected, four of which (125km) will be open to traffic on September 24th when the changes come into force.
The remainder are under construction. All inter-urban routes are due to be completed by 2010.
The main differences between a a dual carriageway and a motorway, aside from the speed limit, are that learner drivers, vehicles with a speed of less than 50km/h and motorcycles of less than 50cc are barred from using the latter.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) is anxious that quality dual carriageways be reclassified as motorways to prevent what it terms "inappropriate developments" alongside the roads.
Once classified as a motorway access to the route is restricted to separated junctions and this contributes to motorways being the safest routes in the State.
An NRA spokesman said: "It is critical that the NRA protect their investment in the inter-urban routes. We don't need a bunch of M50s around the country."
For this reason the NRA has also sought motorway classification for routes under construction.
Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey yesterday signed the redesignation order.
Among reclassified routes are the Kinnegad to Athlone section of the N6; the Cashel bypass and Cashel to Mitchelstown section on the N8; and the Carlow bypass on the N9. Routes under construction that are being redesignated include the Castletown to Limerick stretch of the N7 and Urlingford to Cashel section of the N8.
A 120km/h speed limit will apply on the reclassified routes.