Clare County Council will not be able to afford to repair the damage caused by recent bad weather to the county’s extensive road network without additional funding from the Department of Transport, the county’s first citizen claimed this week.
“The roads are obviously cut up and I don’t have to drive too far to see the potholes. The local authorities don’t have the money to deal with this. After last year’s cuts we don’t have the money to do the regular work, not to mention the repairs relating to the frost,” Mayor of Clare, Tony Mulcahy told The Clare Champion.
A senior official with Clare County Council has confirmed that road surfaces across the county are in worse condition now than they were after the floods last November.
Tom Tiernan, senior engineer, stated that many roads had deteriorated badly after frost penetrated between 12 and 18 inches into the ground, while Mayor Mulcahy claimed that in Shannon the frost went as deep as 30 inches or two and a half feet.
Mr Tiernan stated that the total cost of repairing potholes caused by the extreme weather is not likely to be known for at least another two weeks.
“You have damage on all categories of road, national, regional or local, all around the county. We don’t know the extent of it yet because the thaw was only completed quite recently. Across the county, area engineers are compiling databases of damaged roads. They will be coming back to me with that and then we will make a submission to the Department of Transport requesting additional funding,” he said.
The reasons for the dramatic deterioration in road surfaces is two-fold, Mr Tiernan explained.
“Effectively, there was a certain amount of damage because of the impact of frost and compacted snow from above. In many cases the most damage rose because of the impact of deep freezing. You had a situation where you had a severe frost to a significant depth of 12 to 18 inches. Where there is moisture in those areas it would have a destabilising impact on the road structure. Therefore, you have damage from below and damage from above,” he outlined.
“There is no hard and fast rule but generally speaking the damage would be more severe than that caused by the floods,” Mr Tiernan added.
Clare’s two Opposition TDs called on the Minister for Transport to allocate additional funding to Clare County Council to remedy the road damage. Highlighting the poor state of Clare roads after recent freezing conditions, Fine Gael TD Joe Carey accused Minister Noel Dempsey of doing “nothing to ensure safe driving conditions”.
“Minister Dempsey is insisting that no extra funds will be made available to local authorities to repair roads that have been damaged by the severe weather conditions. He was missing for the majority of the recent weather crisis and now he is telling us that he will do nothing to ensure safe driving conditions. He should either pay up, or leave office and let someone else do the work that needs to be done,” Deputy Carey claimed.
The Opposition TD highlighted the 10% cut in Clare County Council’s budget last year, saying that he believes there is a case to be made here for the minister to make one-off additional payments to local authorities in the interests of public safety.
Deputy Carey’s party colleague Pat Breen also called on Minister Dempsey to provide emergency funding to repair roads damaged by extreme weather conditions.
Earlier this week, he requested that the minister meet a delegation comprising the county’s four Oireachtas members, the Mayor of Clare and council officials to discuss the need for additional funding to be provided to repair roads in the county that have been very badly affected following the freezing conditions.
Deputy Breen called on the two Government TDs in Clare to facilitate this meeting with Minister Dempsey.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Deputy Breen accused the minister of adopting a Dublin agenda. He said, “This is a road safety issue and a very serious one. While county councils have a limited amount of money available, patchwork repairs are no good. We need an overlaying of some of the local and regional roads.”
Deputy Breen claimed that Clare County Council would not be able to adequately repair the county’s roads if additional financial assistance isn’t given.
At an adjournment debate on Tuesday evening, Deputy Breen stated, “The county councils do not have the money to deal with this situation. Road maintenance grants have been slashed by 10%. I want funding to be provided in my local area so that the roads, which are in an atrocious condition, can be repaired.
“This is a road safety matter, in so far as lives will be saved if action is taken.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport stated that as was the case in previous years, decisions on local authority roads funding would be made over the course of the next month.
Clare County Council has stated that it is prioritising road repairs, concentrating on the ones carrying the greatest traffic load. Throughout the weekend, council staff worked to restore some of the national roads around the county. Council officials warned road users to continue to exercise caution and advised people to notify their area offices if they feel there is a road that needs attention.