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The view of where the northbound M18 ends outside Gort

Big drive for new motorway

CONTRACTS for the construction of the Gort to Tuam motorway are being finalised this week. There were indications that the contracts could be signed this Thursday but this has not been confirmed by the National Roads Authority, who will be signing the contracts with the Public Private Partnership Company.

NRA spokesperson, Sean O’Neill said he “expects the signing of the contracts to take place in the coming weeks”. The project is valued at €550 million and will extend the M18 motorway from Shannon to Tuam.

Local Fianna Fáil councillor, Gerry Finnerty said he wants to see the contracts signed as quickly as possible and is hopeful local people will be employed on the project.

“People want to know what is going on with this and people want to get working. People here want the contract signed so that the work could be advertised and contractors be taken on. We have a lot of lorry drivers, machine drivers and so on, who are not working at the moment. They all anxious for this to move forward. We have a number of people from here who worked in those types of jobs and who have emigrated and it would be great if they would get a chance to come back. But as well as the contract being signed, people want to know when the start date for the work is,” Councillor Finnerty stated.

The issue of the road was also raised at a Clare County Council meeting on Monday by Councillor Pat Daly, who requested the authority to seek a definite confirmation date for the start of this project from Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.

Saying beginning work on this section of the motorway is “long overdue”, Councillor Daly claimed it was postponed on several occasions in recent months.
The Fianna Fáil Councillor warned that Shannon Airport was losing out on hundreds of potential new passengers because people from Galway were travelling to Dublin Airport for flights to different destinations. If the new Gort to Tuam motorway was completed, he outlined this would improve the access to the Shannon region, reduce travel times from Galway to Limerick and dramatically increase Shannon Airport’s catchment area.

He recalled the Goverment had given a commitment that work on this road would start in February and stressed he would love to know when work would actually start.

The meeting was told that an announcement concerning this project was imminent and would be made later in the week. “I have heard this so many times before that I will believe it when I see it,” said Councillor Daly.

The construction of the 57-km motorway – part of the so-called Atlantic Corridor on the west coast – will take thousands of vehicles out of Clarinbridge, Claregalway and Tuam each day.

Clare county manager, Tom Coughlan told councillors at a local authority meeting in November that a contractor for the project had been selected, with construction to begin early in 2014. The motorway will be funded by an annuity from the State to the private contractors over a period of 25 years.

According to the National Roads Authority (NRA), hundreds of jobs will be created during the construction process, with the opening of the road to have a major impact on traffic flow in blackspots such as Claregalway. The route will be toll free and it is expected that the road could be open to traffic by 2017.

The Department of Public Expenditure approved the allocation of money to cover the Exchequer element of the scheme last year and the NRA.

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