FOLLOWING weeks of speculation, Ministers Leo Varadkar and Brendan Howlin signed the contract for the M17/M18 Gort to Tuam motorway this week.The €550 million project is a public-private partnership, which will see the M18 extended 57km beyond Gort.
Work is to begin on the motorway from Gort to Tuam in the coming weeks.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin signed a contract with consortium Direct Route, which includes Roadbridge, John Sisk, Lagan, three large Irish civil engineering firms, and Strabag of Austria.
The project will create up to 450 jobs and, according to the Government, will “boost local economies in the West and ease congestion”. The jobs are expected to be created during the construction and post-construction phases.
“This is further evidence of the Government’s commitment to improving transport infrastructure outside of the Greater Dublin Area,” Minister Varadkar said.
Minister Howlin said, “I am very pleased we have achieved sign-off on the latest roads project, to be delivered using the ublic-private partnership (PPP) model and, indeed, the first, and largest, project of our new PPP Stimulus Programme.”
The entire PPP programme had been frozen since the economic crisis of 2008 but is now fully operational again.
“This 57km scheme will be a major boost to the Western region and I’m delighted we have now secured financing under the PPP programme. The new road will be safer and will bypass Clarinbridge, Claregalway and Tuam, which all suffer from congestion. Anyone who has travelled the existing route appreciates the difference this new road will make. I want to congratulate the NRA for getting the contract to this stage. I’m especially pleased that three members of the contract consortium are Irish civil engineering firms, and I hope this bodes well for our economic recovery,” Minister Varadkar said.
“When completed, this new motorway will reduce journey times between Limerick and Galway, allowing the two cities to work together economically, and supporting further investment and jobs. It will also reduce journey times from Galway to Shannon Airport, boosting the airport’s growth prospects,” he added.
The new four-lane motorway will replace the existing N17/N18 roads, and reduce end-to-end journey times by around 20 minutes. The road will bypass Tuam, Ardrahan, Claregalway, Kilcolgan, Clarinbridge and Gort.
The European Investment Bank will provide €144 million over 26 years for the scheme. In the region of €150 million will be provided by commercial funders, with a mix of international and domestic project finance banks represented alongside new international institutional investors.
Fred Barry, CEO of the National Roads Authority, said the “signing signifies a monumental step towards the construction of the Atlantic Corridor Motorway.”
Work is due to be completed on the motorway in less than four years and the first traffic along the route is expected in late 2018.
The signing of contracts for the building of the project was widely welcomed by public representatives in Clare.
Labour TD Michael McNamara said it would provide better access for tourists to the region and expressed his hope that people in the county would find work on the project.
“Linking Galway, Ennis and Shannon Airport with a four-lane motorway is just the kind of news we need to add to the attractiveness of Shannon. I am confident it will benefit city break and weekend tourism and the motorway will also assist in the promotion of new airline business, as well as other aviation projects in Shannon.
“Over the next three years, building the motorway will have a beneficial effect on the construction sector and I am hopeful that Clare workers will find good employment close to home. Indeed, some of our young people who have been forced to emigrate may want to seek jobs on this project,” said Deputy McNamara.
Clare Fine Gael TD, Joe Carey has said he expects work on the Gort-Tuam motorway to begin on May 9.
“I understand the sod-turning ceremony has been pencilled in for May 9, marking the beginning of work on the project,” said Deputy Carey.
“Long term, I believe this project is vital to the ongoing development of tourism in the Mid-West. We must ensure that, in the years ahead, we properly market the ease of access to Shannon Airport to the whole Western Seaboard.
“This new motorway, which is expected to be toll-free, will ease delays through towns such as Clarinbridge, Claregalway and Tuam. Development of this key piece of public infrastructure represents a real positive for the West and I look forward to construction commencing in the coming fortnight,” he concluded.
Fine Gael Deputy Pat Breen also attended the signing. “Accessibility is one of the key critical factors in developing our region’s economy and the construction of this vital piece of infrastructure will greatly enhance economic recovery in this region, which is very welcome news,” he said.
Senator Tony Mulcahy claimed the extension of the road would be particularly important “to those living in Claregalway, Ardrahan, Kilcolgan, Clarinbridge and the other towns and villages that will be bypassed by the road scheme. Once completed, the scheme will further improve connectivity to Shannon Airport for people in Galway and Mayo, in particular, which will prove invaluable as the facility develops into the future.”