AT a briefing for elected representatives this week it emerged that the second phase of the Northern Distributor Road is not beeing included in the Limerick-Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy.
Its omission is receiving a frosty reception in Clare, while if not developed it could potentially scupper the plans developed by Clare County Council and the University of Limerick to create a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) on the northern side of the campus, where thousands of jobs could be created and a possible one billion euro in value added to the regional economy.
The creation of the SDZ is opposed by certain interests in Limerick, who claim it would have a detrimental effect on the city.
Meelick-based TD Cathal Crowe said he was disappointed by the lack of inclusion of the second pahse.
“At the moment, Phase 1 of this road from Coonagh, Limerick, as far as Meelick, Clare, is under construction albeit at a current standstill due to the contractor Roadbridge Ltd going into receivership.
“The government is working flat out to re-tender this project and to ensure that a new contractor is in place to complete it.
“When the road is complete it will end with a roundabout at Knockalisheen, Meelick, and therein lies the problem – if we leave it, it in effect will become the road to nowhere and it’s important that a strategy is in place to pick up from that the terminus point and ensure that there is onward connectivity.
“The NDR aims to alleviate traffic congestion in South Clare and the north suburbs of Limerick city but my fear is that if it’s only partially built that the opposite of these aims will actually be the outcome.
“Some local people continue to have legitimate concerns about the road routing, and it would be right and proper that these concerns are dealt with in the design and planning stages of the road, but it is wrong for the Minister to outright guillotine the project at this point.”
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council PJ Ryan said that building the first phase and then deciding not to finish the job makes no sense at all.
“There is no point in building a road to nowhere, which is what they’re doing at the moment. They supposedly have a new contractor coming on stream soon to finish the first section of the NDR and what they’ll be doing is building a road to nowhere if they don’t continue with the second half of it. It has to be continued.”
He said Clare County Council will not just give up on the creation of the SDZ.
“Conor Sheehan (Labour councillor in Limerick) said this spells the end of the SDZ, but we are not accepting that.”
Councillor Ryan said that even leaving aside the SDZ, the new road is needed.
“Leave the SDZ out of it, it’s required for the convenience of the people who are using UL at the moment and coming into Limerick City from Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.
“The President of UL said that it’s her intention to increase the student throughput by 1,700 over the next couple of years. If that happens it’ll be total gridlock as you come in the Corbally road and the Castleconnell Road.”
Of late the Green Party have been mockes for a perceived lack of reality in their proposals and Councillor Ryan criticised the scale of Minister Eamon Ryan’s plans to move away from the use of vehicles in the region.
“Does he want to make Beijing out of it altogether, 3,500 people cycling into Limerick every day?”
He said Limerick TDs Patrick O’Donovan and Kieran O’Donnell had spoken against the decision to not proceed with the road, as have Joe Carey and Cathal Crowe from Clare, and the Cathaoirleach said the people of the region must be listened to by Minister Ryan.
Other aspects of the Limerick-Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy including providing more frequent services on the Ennis line and examining the possibility of a future rail line for Shannon.