Big road projects finally get go-ahead


MOTORWAY PROJECTS and new roads that had been put on the long finger are expected to get the go-ahead when the Cabinet signs off a €2 billion stimulus package tomorrow aimed at “job-rich” sectors of the economy.

The Department of Transport will be a key beneficiary of the “off-balance-sheet” funding, along with strategic infrastructure projects in education such as the postponed Dublin Institute of Technology campus at Grangegorman.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will announce the suite of measures formulated after the Government examined non-traditional ways to fund previously announced flagship projects. Investment for many projects had to be delayed when the capital spending budget for this year was cut by €755 million to €3.9 billion last November.

The bulk of funding for the schemes, selected because of their capacity to stimulate economic growth, will come from the proceeds of the sale of State assets, with contributions from the National Pensions Reserve Fund, public-private partnerships and the European Investment Bank.

“There will definitely be a big focus on roads. This will include some motorways as well as brand new roads,” a Government source said. The new roads will be previously announced projects that had not been started.

A Department of Finance spokesman stressed the details of the announcement had not been finalised but said projects were expected to be carried out in various counties in sectors that were potentially “job rich”. He cautioned that there remained a “timing issue” around when State assets would be sold, however.

A heavy agenda awaits Ministers tomorrow at the penultimate Cabinet meeting before summer break. A series of “reform” measures is due to be brought to Government tomorrow. The measures include a review of the Freedom of Information Act and money-saving proposals on shared services and the procurement of goods and services by public bodies.

The contentious issue of reducing and updating allowances for public servants may also arise.

When Mr Howlin launched the infrastructure and capital investment plan 2012-2016 last November he said the national children’s hospital could be part-funded by a “front-load payment” secured from the next licence to operate the National Lottery. He recently confirmed his officials had already met potential bidders for the next licence.

Mr Howlin has said the Government was attempting to be as “creative and innovative” as it could be about “off-balance-sheet” funding of strategic infrastructure.