Because of a lack of investment for ten years, development of roads in Cork has not kept pace with the population and the economy. This must be rectified, say Cork Chamber chief, Conor Healy, and CIF regional director, Conor O’Connell. Roisin Burke reports.
A ten-year lack of investment has created a backlog of road projects in Cork and the existing infrastructure isn’t able for our growing population and economy.
Cork needs to move swiftly forward with the essential road projects that are in progress, said the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) director for the southern region, Conor O’Connell, and Cork Chamber chief executive, Conor Healy.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr O’Connell said that due to a population surge of 122,000 in Cork, between 1996 and 2016, progress must be made on the suite of essential projects needed in the city and county.
“Over the past 15 years, while the population of the city and county has been growing significantly, as well as the employment base growing significantly, and the infrastructure provision just hasn’t kept pace with the employment and population growth: it simply hasn’t,” Mr O’Connell said. “There haven’t been any major transportation infrastructural projects in Cork in the last 10 years.”
Mr O’Connell said that while the road projects are primarily to facilitate motorists, they also create a more sustainable Cork of fewer trucks and lorries in the city, reduced congestion, safer cycling and walking, and more efficient public transport.
The CIF regional director also said this shift would make space in the inner city for residential and office development.
Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber and Dr. James Ring, CEO of Limerick Chamber pictured in Charleville at the commencement of an M20 study in 2017.
“What they actually facilitate is taking trucks out of existing residential areas, port traffic out of the city centre, allowing all of that traffic to relocate to the port that is currently being built in Ringaskiddy, for instance,” Mr O’Connell said.
“So, it allows for development to take place in the docklands and in the city centre, where people can live more closely to the large employment hubs that are growing, now that we see Penrose Quay, Horgan’s Quay developing, Navigation Square. These are growing employment hubs and now that we have significant people working there, and what these road projects facilitate is the development of residential accommodation close to that employment.
“So, while they are road projects, they facilitate a more liveable Cork and a far more sustainable Cork, where people can use public transport to get to work, or cycle or walk to work, in a far more efficient manner than currently,” Mr O’Connell said.
Picture: Alan Place
Mr Healy said that 2020 is a pivotal year, with the looming general election, and that it was vital that whoever came to power in February understood that Cork is a city rising.
The Cork Chamber chief executive also said that while there were a number of private projects in construction across the city, these were relying on promises of infrastructural developments, such as the M20 motorway, between Cork and Limerick, the N28 motorway, between Cork and Ringaskiddy, and the Dunkettle interchange project.
“There are one million square feet of office space under development in Cork and there is an expectation of delivery of a number of road projects over the coming years. The National Development Plan gave a lot of confidence to developers in Cork and we need to follow through on that,” Mr Healy said. Mr Healy said one glaring omission from the ongoing work was the Northern Ring Road, which would open up development across the city. “It would do the same as the South Link Road,” Mr Healy said and he thought the project should run in tandem with the Limerick route N20. “This would allow us to see new areas of the city take shape.”
The Western Relief Road, which is going to tender by the end of January, is an opportunity for the town to develop like Ballincollig. Finally, Mr Healy said the Cobh Road was a very important route economically in terms of tourism and port activity.Discussing the ongoing development of Cork, Mr O’Connell said that Cork is developing, but it needs to do so quicker.“Cork is beginning to produce more residential units, more office space, the industry is looking forward to a new decade of growth after what was a difficult 10 years. It is okay, but it could be doing better.”