Thursday, 28 November 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Road Projects Status
I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to take this Commencement matter on an issue that I have raised many times. For those who are not familiar with it, the N16 is a key route between Sligo and Enniskillen, and the north west and Northern Ireland. The road commences at the junction of the N15 at Cartran in Sligo and travels north east past Sligo Institute of Technology and onwards passing above Glencar Lake and entering County Leitrim. It passes through only two towns, Manorhamilton and Glencar, until it reaches Blacklion in County Cavan. Over the Border, the route becomes the A4 road to Enniskillen and onwards connecting to Belfast via the A4 and M1 motorway.
Sections of the N16 Sligo to Enniskillen are in extremely poor condition, with some sections of it are regarded as some of the worst accident blackspots in the country. There has been some investment on the N16 to address the poor conditions, but it is only in the last couple of years that a more strategic approach has been taken. Two years ago, a route selection process for the N16 was completed, with the aim of a phased upgrade to assist the realignment of several very bad bends. I am glad to note that in recent times plans to correct some of these dangerous stretches of the road have advanced and I welcome that a section of the N16 Sligo to Manorhamilton Road, a 2.5 km stretch between Kilsallagh and Lugnagall townlands, has recently received statutory planning consent from An Bord Pleanála. I look forward to this work being progressed.
Sligo County Council recently admitted that its work on the Sligo section of the N16 had fallen behind in comparison with the work carried out on the route by Leitrim County Council. I hope this Sligo scheme will be the first of many along this section of the road. I also hope that these works will mark the start of a series of schemes along this stretch which will improve its quality and safety for all road users, not to mention journey times. I cannot over-emphasise the need for good quality primary routes for the continued promotion of business and tourism for the north west. The importance of progressing meaningful works along the N16 cannot be overstated.
I welcome the Minister of State's views on the matter.
My colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, has overall responsibility for policy and funding in regard to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015, the planning, design, improvement and upgrading of individual roads is a matter for the relevant local authority in regard to local and regional roads, or for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Tll, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned in regard to national roads.
Within the overall context of Project Ireland 2040, the national development plan, NDP, has been developed by the Government to underpin the successful implementation of the new national planning framework, NPF. This provides the strategic and financial framework tor TII's national roads programme for the period 2018 to 2027. In the ten years covered by the plan, over €11 billion will be invested in the overall road network. While there has been no major project identified for delivery on the N16 route under the NDP, funding has been provided to carry out improvement works under other programmes funded by Tll. In conjunction with the local authorities in Sligo and Leitrim, Tll is progressing improvement schemes on the N16, which I will outline later. First, I would like to explain that Tll also provides an annual grant allocation to local authorities to carry out maintenance works on national roads in their respective administrative areas. The planning, prioritisation and implementation of the national road maintenance activities that are funded under this allocation are matters for the road authority concerned.
In regard to minor schemes on the N16, I understand from Tll that the following schemes are being progressed on the N16 route. Under Sligo County Council the N16 Luqatober realignment scheme will result in improvements to a 2.5 km section of the N16 which occurs within the townland of Lugatober and extends between Drumkillsellagh and Lugnagall. The existing road is extremely deficient in terms of horizontal and vertical alignment as well as road width. The project will remove a number of substantially deficient bends on this section of the route and in doing so will improve safety, sight distance end cross sectional width. An application by Sligo County Council to An Bard Pleanála was made on 18 February 2019. The compulsory purchase order was confirmed in May 2019 and the environmental impact assessment, EIA, was confirmed in August 2019. Detailed design and tender documents are under preparation and land acquisition is under way.
On the N16 Drummahan, under Leitrim County Council this proposed project is a realignment of the N16 at Drummahan, consisting of the improvement of 1.5 km of single carriageway. It is located between Glencar on the Sligo-Leitrim boundary and, as referenced earlier, Manorhamilton, and it adjoins the recent N16 improvement in Mulkaun. An application to An Bord Pleanála was made in March 2018. Leitrim County Council obtained planning approval for this scheme in July 2018. Detailed design and tender documents are under preparation.
On the Munakill realignment scheme, under Leitrim County Council this proposed scheme is situated in County Leitrim approximately 4 km east of Manorhamilton and consists of the improvement of approximately 2.7 km of national primary route. The existing section of this route at Munakill has a high accident history. The proposed project is a continuation of various schemes completed over the years to remove a current substandard realignment and road width section. The project appraisal plan was approved by the Department in October. Planning and design on this scheme is ongoing.
The overall objective of the proposed developments are to provide an all-purpose road for the safe transport of people and goods, with the purpose of serving the community in a manner that minimises impact on the environment and is in accordance with national, regional and local policy. In addition, there are a number of pavement improvement schemes scheduled to be carried out on the N16 route in Sligo and Leitrim. Details of these are as follows: Sligo - N16 at Lugatober to Willbrook and Willowbrook to Barroe; and Leitrim - N16 at Pollboy to Cornastauk. A grant of €600,000 was provided in 2019 to Sligo County Council to progress planning and design on the N16 Lugatober realignment scheme. A further €900,000 was allocated for pavement improvement works. Sligo County Council also received €568,000 for maintenance works on the national primary routes in Sligo. The planning and prioritisation of road maintenance activities to be funded under this provision are matters for Sligo County Council.A grant allocation of €150,000 was provided in 2019 to Leitrim County Council to progress planning and design on the N16 Drummahan realignment scheme. A further grant allocation of €100,000 was provided to progress planning and design on the N16 Munakill realignment scheme. A further €730,000 was allocated for pavement improvement works on the N16 in Leitrim. Leitrim County Council also received €304,000 for maintenance works on the national primary routes in Leitrim. The planning and prioritisation of roads maintenance activities to be funded under this provision are matters for Leitrim County Council.
As all of these schemes are at an early stage of development, it is not possible at this time to indicate a likely timeframe for construction and completion of these projects but I will keep the Senator fully apprised of what is happening with regard to timeframes. I know the schemes are important to people in that part of country. As the Senator has raised these concerns, we will try to ensure he has open channels to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to get the information as it emerges.
I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Clearly, the costs of realigning this road are being met from various sources of funding. There is significant investment in other road schemes in Sligo, such as the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin upgrade and the western distributor road in Sligo. Government investment is good news for the north west. I have said many times that with proper investment in infrastructure in Sligo and Leitrim, both counties will be able to drive growth and investment throughout the north-west region. The north west is similar to Galway in that many young couples and businesses want to locate in the region. After many years of underinvestment and underachievement now is time that the north west can leapfrog other areas. Sustained funding in key roads such as the N16 can open the region to more investment. We talk about North-South co-operation. This is a North-South and east-west corridor and we certainly need more business. This road is needed for tourism. This is an important message that I have brought to the Minister of State and I know he has listened.
I thank the Senator. With regard to his comment on the north west, there is enormous potential in that part of the country. Wearing my tourism hat, Yeats country in County Sligo has so much potential. It is incumbent on all of us to get the infrastructure right to allow access. Various community groups and local authorities on the ground, working with agencies such as Fáilte Ireland, are doing very progressive work, which will drive demand. However, access is also required, which is why the matter the Senator has raised today is so important. We must get the infrastructure right and ensure there are proper channels to bring people in and out of the area safely. We need a whole-of-Government approach in all sectors of the economy. It is vital that we have safe and adequate infrastructure for the 21st century. There is clearly some catching up to be done. There is pent-up demand after a decade of underinvestment as a result of the economic crisis. I will continue to work with the Senator on all of these issues because I know they are critical for him and the region he is from.