The perennially-delayed M20 is back on the Government agenda
The Government considers the proposed €1 billion motorway connecting Cork and Limerick to be a "priority project" once more, according to Simon Coveney.
The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government said on Tuesday that, while such a large-scale investment would not "be an easy thing to do", the State was "looking at ways we can finance that sooner rather than later".
The fresh official stance represents quite the rethink considering former transport minister Paschal Donohoe refused to sanction design funding for the project less than two years ago. Planning for an 80km motorway linking the two major Munster cities recommenced in November.
Coveney's comments came as a Construction Industry Federation (CIF) delegation claimed the "M20" motorway – which the two cities have been seeking for a quarter of a century – could be kick-started with an investment of a mere €5m.
Vice president Pat Lucey said:
"If there was €5m allocated for Cork to Limerick, you would get an enormous amount of planning done.”
CIF director general Tom Parlon stated that the total billion-euro cost would be covered by the resulting economic benefit inside of 18 months.
The M20 motorway would play a significant role in providing a western counterpoint to Dublin's economic dominance, according to an "Ireland 2040" report launched by Coveney in February. It would take close to a decade, however, before a Cork-Limerick-Galway corridor could be fully operational.
The CIF delegation was appearing before the Oireachtas budgetary oversight committee yesterday, calling for the Government to both put pressure on the EU to relax fiscal space constraints infrastructure.
It also wants the European Investment Bank to be utilised for funding, arguing that investment in public infrastructure has to increase to 4% of Ireland's GDP.
The Dublin Metro and Dart were highlighted as absolute priorities for investment.
CIF president Dominic Doheny spoke of a brewing "national crisis" and said:
“We’re here with a clear warning – the lack of investment in infrastructure today poses a clear threat to Ireland’s economic and social progress.
“We believe that this can be averted through some innovative thinking and flexibility on our behalf and that of the EU. But we must act quickly as the situation is now very stark.”