M7 upgrade: All three lanes now open but at reduced speed limit
Construction started on widening a 13.5km stretch of the road in January 2018
Road works on the M7 as they neared completion last week. Photograph Nick Bradshaw
All three lanes of the newly upgraded M7 in Co Kildare are in operation for the first time on Friday but at a reduced speed limit of 60km/h.
This is to be changed to 80 km/h on Saturday, according to the director of services with Kildare County Council, Niall Morrissey, who stressed the reduced limit was still required as engineering works were ongoing.
Outstanding verge works are scheduled to be completed by mid-September, when the speed limit will revert back to 120km/h.
Construction began on widening a 13.5km stretch of the road in January 2018. It was originally anticipated by the contractor that all three lanes would be in operation in both directions by April 2019.
Under recently, three lanes were in operation at 80km/h from junction eight Johnstown as far as junction 10 Naas South. From 6am on Friday, all three lanes from Johnstown to the M7/M9 interchange at junction 11 opened.
Mr Morrissey defended the decision to have a reduced speed limit on the newly upgraded motorway.
The works were complicated because 50 kilometres of telecommunication cables were involved along with infrastructure for other services such as gas and water, he said.
“It was important to get it right. The contractor is getting it done as swiftly as possible.”
The speed restrictions were put in place while the work was being completed because it was an active job site, he explained.
Mr Morrissey told of how he travelled the route at one stage in a garda squad car which was being driven at the speed limit, but they were passed by numerous cars far exceeding the limit. “They didn’t take into consideration the speed limit or the safety of staff.”
When asked if a fine would be imposed on the contractor if the works were not completed on schedule, he said it would.
Mr Morrissey urged people to heed the speed limit. “The overall message is about getting there safely, not quickly.”
A TII spokesman said: “People will really notice the difference on the commute home because it allows the traffic to dissipate with the three lanes going down to the M9 Waterford. ”
GoSafe speed detection vans were deployed to the route last November to ensure motorists were complying with the reduced 60km/h limit which was in place during the project works.
The latest figures from TII show 14,500 speeding fines have been handed out along the road since the works began. Local District Court Judge Desmond Zaidan and the Courts Service have both raised concerns over how to deal with the increase in cases.
The M7 carries about 78,000 vehicles per day and is the main network connection to M9/Waterford, M8/Cork and M7/Limerick.
The upgrade project also involves the replacement and relocation of the existing ramps at Junction 10 Naas South Newhall to the main Naas Newbridge dual carriageway, the R445, the construction of a new interchange at Osberstown and a new Sallins bypass.