€500m Waterford city bypass opens

 

THE €500 million Waterford city bypass which has opened is expected to take thousands of cars off the streets of the city.

The bypass, which opened yesterday 10 months ahead of schedule but 40 years after it was first proposed, includes a 465m (1,500ft) cable-stay bridge.

The project was described by the Mayor of Waterford John Halligan as “long-awaited, much-anticipated and highly-appreciated”.

Mr Halligan also good-humouredly noted that normal protocol was abandoned as the opening ceremony was performed, not by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey but instead by local Fianna Fáil TD and Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Martin Cullen.

However, Mr Halligan pointed out that Mr Cullen was minister for transport when the project was approved and had been “in the same department when the M9 motorway was given the green light along with investment in the Dublin-Waterford rail route – all purely coincidental I’m sure!”

The 23km (14-mile) bypass was built by Celtic Roads Group, a consortium of Irish, Dutch and Spanish companies under the Government’s Public Private Partnership programme.

The company has been granted a licence to levy tolls until 2036. Drivers using the bypass must pay tolls which cost: €1 for motorbikes; €1.90 for cars; €3.40 for buses and coaches; €4.80 for two and three-axle trucks; and €6.10 for trucks with four or more axles.

The firm is creating 35 jobs to run a new toll plaza.

The route, between the south Kilkenny village of Slieverue and Kilmeaden in Waterford, includes the spectacular new cable-stayed bridge – the longest in Ireland – which spans the River Suir and links Leinster to Munster.

The opening of the bypass will shorten journey times between the port of Rosslare and Cork and means that trucks travelling in either direction on the N25 will no longer have to pass through Waterford city centre.

Officials said congestion would be eased as some 12,000 cars a day would be removed from Waterford’s congested quays and the existing Rice Bridge.

The Waterford skyline has been transformed by the new bridge, which is dominated by a 100m (328ft) pylon almost twice the height of Dublin’s Liberty Hall.

Officially named the River Suir Bridge, it has already been informally dubbed the “cat-flap” in GAA circles as it facilitates access to Waterford by residents of neighbouring Co Kilkenny.

The southeast’s road network will be complemented by the end of next year by the full opening of the Dublin-Waterford motorway, the M9. The motorway is being built in four phases.

The first, the Carlow bypass, is already open to traffic, while work is reportedly ahead of schedule on the remaining three phases.

Journey times will be reduced between the two cities and bypass “bottleneck” towns such as Castledermot, Co Kildare, and Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny.