Although welcoming the announcement that the M17/18 Gort to Tuam motorway will go ahead, many county councillors have voiced serious objections to the news that the Claregalway bypass project has been abandoned, despite more than €750,000 being allocated to the project.
Earlier this month, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed that his department does not have the money required to build the €21 million Claregalway bypass and that even if the funds were available the new motorway would mean there would be no need for such a relief road.
It is understood that the €550 million M17/M18 Gort to Tuam Motorway, the biggest construction project in the state this year, will result in the provision of up to 1,500 jobs. Reports had suggested that the contract was to be signed at the offices of the National Roads Authority last Tuesday, however, a spokesperson told the Advertiser yesterday that this is not the case, that an exact date for the signing of the contract is not yet available, but that it is expected to take place in the coming weeks.
At the Galway County Council meeting on Monday, Cllr Jim Cuddy (Ind ) said: “Everyone would have to welcome the new M17 but I have serious objections in relation to the Claregalway bypass. To date more than €750,000 has been allocated for this relief road. I would ask the minister to explain how he can justify that money and now abandon the project. The money kept coming until this year. Why was only €173,000 spent of what was allocated? Why was it not spent and where did it go? We as councillors should be informed. It was in a press statement that we were told it was not going ahead.”
Cllr Cuddy said the figure of €21 million quoted for the Claregalway relief road is “totally outlandish” and that it can be done for far less now. “The M17 is not going to relieve that blockage [in Claregalway]. I want the minister to come down and see first hand what is happening out there,” said Cllr Cuddy.
“The bypass has been used as an election football for a long number of years,” said Cllr Seán Canney (Ind ) who added: “There’s a queue in Claregalway day on day, week on week. People are delayed sitting on the road. It’s laughable that this kind of thing is going on with public money. I thought that attitude was gone.”
Work on the construction of the new motorway is expected to begin as soon as negotiations have concluded between the NRA and the contracting Consortium Direct Route, whose members include Roadbridge, John Sisk, and Lagan, three large Irish civil engineering firms.
The Department of Public Expenditure has approved the allocation of money to cover the exchequer element of the scheme. According to Galway County Council documents the construction of a 57km motorway will take thousands of vehicles out of Clarinbridge, Claregalway and Tuam each day. It will be constructed as a Public Private Partnership project. There will be no tolls on the route. Instead the state will pay the private contractor an annuity over 25 years. It is understood that the motorway will take up to three years to complete and should open to traffic in 2017