Construction work on Arklow by-pass is ahead of schedule
Work on the Arklow by-pass in Co Wicklow is ahead of schedule and the 11.3 km motorway-standard road should open early next year, Wicklow County Council has confirmed.
Contracts for the £40 million project, which will by-pass one of the south-east's most notorious blackspots, were signed in September 1996, with work expected to take three years.
The project involves the building of 14 bridges and underpasses, including a 180-metre crossing of the Avoca river. Travelling from south to north, the road will leave the existing N11 at Kish Bridge, passing Arklow to the west, crossing the Avoca river to the north-west of the town and rejoining the N11 at Johnstown, three kilometres north of Arklow.
On completion it will take its place as part of Euroroute 01, which includes motorway and national routes between Larne, Co Antrim, and Rosslare, Co Wexford.
Although the Arklow by-pass is being built to motorway standards it will officially be known as a national route. There is no motorway in Co Wicklow.
Confirming that the road was ahead of schedule, the Wicklow county engineer, Mr Michael Looby, said it was particularly pleasing that the construction work had facilitated the discovery of a complex Bronze Age habitation at Johnstown South.
This was thought to have been a simple ring fort, but a team of archaeologists found neolithic pottery, flint implements and clay moulds which would have been used up to 1800 BC to make bronze implements.
The by-pass is expected to reduce greatly traffic congestion north and south of Arklow, where traffic tailbacks at weekends can often exceed three miles.
Arklow has an annual average daily traffic (AADT) figure of 10,000 vehicles, but in the summer, with additional holidaymakers' vehicles and daytrippers, this figure can almost double.
"It would be fair to say that Arklow is famous for its traffic, and we are very pleased that this by-pass is ahead of schedule. The original completion date was towards the back end of 1999 and then we were given a new date by the main contractors, Ascon, of April 1999, and now it looks as if we will even get it earlier than that," Mr Looby said.
"What would normally delay us at this stage is the winter weather, but we understand that the earthworks have been completed and the only thing that could be affected is the black topping. However, on the east coast we are near the sea and we don't usually get weather that would be bad enough to delay that work," he added.