Limerick Tunnel to open for business in June as NRA promises fuel and time savings
By Nick Rabbitts
WITH the opening of the â‚¬660m Limerick tunnel due to take place next month, the question now is: will people use it?
The National Roads Authority has confirmed the Limerick Tunnel will be open on Saturday, June 19, to allow people to walk up and down the tunnel, before it opens to traffic around a week later.
Charges for the use of the tunnel - which it is hoped will remove traffic from the Dock, Ennis and Condell Roads, and which completes the Southern Ring Road, Phase 2, linking the N7 and the N18 - range from 90c for motorcycles, to â‚¬4.50 and â‚¬5.70 for large goods vehicles, with motor cars costing â‚¬1.80 for entry.
A spokesperson for the NRA has said while toll booths will be in place at the entry points to the 900m long tunnel, there will be 'fast lanes' for people who carry toll tags.
But concern has been raised at the price of the road - which could see some local businesses paying more than â‚¬20 per week for access.
However, an NRA spokesman has predicted the tunnel will be a success, saying: "The Dock Road in Limerick is one of the most significant bottlenecks in the Mid-West of Ireland.
"The tunnel will, without question, offer fuel efficiency, value for money and time savings. The indications we are getting is that people will vote with their wallets on this matter."
The spokesman also called on the Limerick public to visit http://www.tagcompare.ie
, to check out the offers available to motorists to ensure they can get through the barriers swiftly when the tunnel - operated by Direct Route - opens.
Conor Faughnan, the AA's public affairs manager has welcomed the new tunnel, but feels that the money could be collected in an alternative manner, to stop businesses feeling the pinch.
"I have always maintained that using tolls as a funding mechanism for these roads is a significant mistake. If you take the carbon tax increase from last December's budget, the revenue raised from that would equal the total toll revenue. It would be far easier for the government to apply this levy on fuel to the infrastructure.
"Then the roads would be paid for, without burdening motorists with tolls," he explained, "The infrastructure is magnificent. It is a very far-sighted investment, and substantially enhances the infrastructure, and will pay us back in the long run.
But it is a deeply unfortunate, long term mistake to rely on direct tolls as a funding mechanism.â€
Sean Guinane, of cable transportation company Techpart, based in the Ballysimon Road, welcomed the new road, and predicted it would be widely used.
â€œThere will be no new traffic on Limerickâ€™s main roads, that is the point.
â€œEven if just one car switches to the Limerick Tunnel, it will have a positive impact,â€ he told the Limerick Leader.
The Limerick Tunnel links up the N18 Ennis Road from a final interchange bridge near Cratloe Castle, and represents the final junction on the N7 Limerick Southern Ring Road.
The work is being carried out by a consortium of Strabag, John Sisk & Son, Lagan Holdings and Roadbridge.