The Government has pledged to clarify when exactly a route will be selected next year for the proposed upgrade of the N20 Cork -Limerick Road with at least 62 people having lost their lives in road traffic collisions on the road over the past 25 years.
Minister of State, Roderic O'Gorman deputising for the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, told the Dáil that €5.1 billion had been earmarked for new national road projects up to 2030 in the National Development Plan which was launched in Cork in October
"The N20-M20 project is included in the list of projects to be progressed in the NDP and it is being actively progressed. This year alone, Transport Infrastructure Ireland allocated €5 million to Limerick City and County Council to progress the scheme," said Minister O'Gorman.
“The N20-M20 road corridor options to augment or replace the existing N20 Cork-Limerick road are currently being evaluated by TII. These options include a new motorway, the M20 or the upgrading of various sections of the N20. These road options largely following the existing N20 corridor.”
Mr O'Gorman was responding to a Dáil question by Cork North Central Fine Gael TD Colm Burke who raised concerns about the safety of those currently using the existing N20, referencing a recent Irish Times feature which established that at least 62 people lost their lives on the road since 1997.
“Between 2016 and 2018, some 87 collisions were recorded on the N20, seven of which involved the death of road users and a further 13 collisions led to serious injuries with the remaining 67 resulting in minor injuries to road users,” he said.
Mr Burke said that by-passes clearly needed to be built around Mallow, Buttevant and Charleville with the section from Mallow to Charleville proving extremely dangerous given the volume of traffic using it daily with an estimated 13,000 using the section between Charleville and Buttevant.
And he pointed out that those using the N20 also face the challenge posed by there being 625 access points on to the road from a combination of public roads, private houses and fields resulting in particular challenges for anyone attempting to execute a right turn and crossing a lane of traffic.
“We face a major challenge. There is a massive volume of traffic comprising both cars and commercial vehicles. As the Minister will know, the Port of Cork has been upgraded and now has additional capacity,” said Mr Burke.
“We will, therefore, have further commercial freight traffic using this road in the coming years. I ask that this project be prioritised and not postponed again because, if we decide to start in the morning, we will still have a long journey to travel before we turn the first sod on this project.”
Mr O’Gorman said that following a public consultation on the possible route options which closed on January 15th 2021, he expected TII to announce the preferred route option in the first half of 2022 which will in turn allow design and environmental evaluation to be undertaken by the project team.
He said that "the business case" for the route upgrade is then expected to be submitted to the Department of Transport and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform early in 2023 and, subject to approval, TII can then proceed to lodge the necessary documents with An Bord Pleanála.
However Mr Burke said he was concerned about how long this was all taking as it was originally envisaged that planning for the project was to start in January 2022 by which time a route was to have been selected. Now, it appears that route selection would only take place in the first half of 2022.
“The Minister is now talking about the first half of the year and I am a bit concerned about that. When he speaks about the first half of the year, does he mean January or June because there is a huge difference and the volume of traffic on this road will not decrease.”
Mr O’Gorman said that he would raise the matter with Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan as to when exactly in 2022, route selection would be finalised but he pointed out TII is engaging with Limerick City and County Council and providing money to undertake design and research elements.