PUBLIC Transport and Commuter Affairs Minister Alan Kelly has received confirmation that the National Roads Authority (NRA) will not be objecting to the proposed €40 million Shannon crossing at Ballina/Killaloe.
There were fears the NRA would lodge a formal objection due to the potential loss of revenue to the Shannon Tunnel toll bridge near Limerick City.
However, Minister Kelly believes these concerns are ill-founded and should not prevent progress on the project. The minister’s intervention can be viewed as a boost to the project promoters, in light of the NRA’s submission to the county council about possible impact on the Shannon Tunnel, which is already being heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.
The nine-day oral hearing concerning the proposed development of a new River Shannon crossing, Killaloe bypass and upgrading of the Ballina to Birdhill regional road concluded at the Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh on Thursday.
Minister Kelly has received an assurance from the State’s principal roads body that the project should go ahead.
“Following recent media reports on this project I made it my business to raise this matter directly with the NRA. As the State’s primary agency for roads, their views would be very influential. However, I am happy to confirm that that the NRA will not be objecting to the bridge,” stated Minister Kelly.
“The bridge is a vital piece of local infrastructure in a key area of tourism potential. While the NRA have concerns about the financial impact the bridge would have on the Limerick bridge, this is not a reason to stop vital infrastructure,” he added.
Minister Kelly said he remains committed to ensuring the bridge is treated as a priority in the department and is hopeful that once the planning process is completed, funding can then be allocated for construction.
“This project has reached this crucial stage because I pushed it from within the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport. On two occasions it has been pushed forward from CPO stage to oral hearing and I will continue to work for this vital piece of local infrastructure,” concluded Minister Kelly.
In a letter to Clare County Council, the NRA had stated in the context of the Shannon Tunnel Public Private Partnership Programme that a material adverse impact could arise out of the provision of a new alternative route to the PPP tolled road and the implementation of significant upgrade or improvement of the old existing route.
“It should be emphasised the contract provisions don’t prevent the development of new road schemes, but it is important that these provisions be considered carefully when preparing proposals for any road-related developments matters, including any financial implications that may arise,” the NRA stated in the letter.