Road works originally expected to last two years along the M7 motorway are expected to be completed by April.
The route runs continuously from the outskirts of Naas in Co Kildare to Rossbrien on the outskirts of Limerick City.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) confirmed on Thursday that the contractor, Siac/Colas JV, had informed Kildare County Council, the Department of Transport and TII, that the three lanes of the M7 motorway would be operational in both directions by April 2019. Temporary reductions in speed limits have been in force for some time.
“We look forward to M7 widening being operation in April, with the remainder of the project being delivered by the end of this year/early 2020,” said a TII spokesman.
The upgrade, which involves widening the road from two to three lanes in both directions to ease congestion, began in January 2018. The road is being widened for a distance of 13.6km, between junction eight Johnstown to the M7 and the M9 interchange at junction 11.
The contract also involves the replacement and relocation of the existing ramps at at junction 10 Naas South Newhall to the main Naas Newbridge dual carriageway, the R445.
The new interchange at Osberstown and the new Sallins bypass, also included in the project, are due to be completed by early 2020, according to the TII. The Sallins bypass includes the construction of six new bridges including two crossings over the river Liffey, one crossing over the Grand Canal and one crossing under the Cork-Dublin rail line.
The use of speed detection vans on the M7 motorway, which were introduced in an attempt to slow down motorists during construction, is expected to remain in place until the project is fully completed in early 2020.
A reduced, 60 km/h speed limit was introduced in late 2017 to facilitate the upgrade. But as soon as construction began gardaí recorded motorists ignoring the lower limit. In one case gardaí arrested an individual for driving at 141 km/h in the new zone .
Two GoSafe speed detection vans were deployed on the route. But despite more then 500 cases of penalty points being issued between January and mid- November, motorists continue to speed, according to gardaí.
Impact on residential areas
Three people died in collisions on the M7 in 2018, up from two the previous year.
The motorway’s speed limit is scheduled to be reassessed once the three lanes open in April, according to TII.
Welcoming the news of the motorway’s upcoming completion, Fine Gael Senator Anthony Lawlor called for construction work to be carried out 24/7 to finish the project as soon as possible.
“We live in an age when construction can be carried out 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Mr Lawlor. “This should be the case for all future transport projects where it is permissible.”
If noise and traffic associated with roadworks do not have a negative impact on residential areas, project mangers should consider continuous construction on transport sites, said Mr Lawlor.
A spokeswoman for AA Roadwatch said some of the M7 construction had been carried out during the night from 10pm-6am.