Motorway across Meath officially open to traffic

Fri, Jun 4, 2010, 01:00

ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE:THE M3 motorway which cost an estimated €1 billion will be officially opened today.

The 61km motorway linking the Dublin/Meath border with the Meath/Cavan border is believed to be the largest single road project to be constructed in Ireland and incorporates bypasses of Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells.

In addition to the motorway itself, the overall project involves a network of 49km of ancillary public roads and 34km of farm access roads.

Private security and a large contingent of gardaí will be in place for the opening ceremony, which is to take place near Kells, Co Meath, at 11am.

Protests are expected from a range of environmentalists and heritage activists, including the campaign group Tarawatch who complained the route of the motorway is damaging to the area and passes unacceptably close to the Hill of Tara.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) said anyone who feared the impact of the motorway on the Hill of Tara, the historic seat of the ancient high kings, should “assess it for themselves” over the bank holiday weekend or in the coming weeks.

“The weekend is a perfect opportunity for those who are concerned to get out and see what the fuss was all about,” said a spokesman.

It is also the latest of the State’s new motorways to be tolled. Motorists will face two tolls, at Clonee and Kells, under a public-private partnership between the State and a consortium involving civil engineering companies Ferrovial, Siac and Budimex.

Tolls will be set at €1.30 each, fixed in line with inflation. Despite assertions to the contrary from Tarawatch, the roads authority has insisted it is confident vehicle targets will be met in the first year of operation.

Following the completion of the major inter-urban motorways to Limerick and Waterford this October, all of the motorways between Dublin and the regional cities, as well as the Border, will feature tolls.

The roads authority said yesterday that private finance is likely to be involved in a greater share of its projects in coming years.

Current public-private partnerships in development include the Gort to Tuam motorway in Co Galway; the upgrade of Newlands Cross, Dublin; N11 improvements in Co Wicklow; and the southern section of the M20 Cork to Limerick road.

Construction of the M3 was controversial not only because of its proximity to the Hill of Tara, but also because it was used by the European Commission as an example of non-compliance by Ireland with European planning directives.

In 2007, then EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said the commission considered Ireland’s approach to decisions involving the destruction or removal of historic structures and archaeological monuments to be in breach of EU rules.