Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be with you today to officially mark the commencement of work on the N25 Waterford City Bypass.
This is the most significant Waterford infrastructure project ever. For years, the lack of a bypass and the absence of a second bridge has held us back held us back both socially and economically.
With no alternative, traffic has been forced onto the quays, resulting in traffic choking the City. This type of congestion is not conducive to making a City work for the people who live here, work here or do business here. Now finally, we have secured the resources and the backing to make things better and deliver the infrastructure Waterford and the South East needs.
We have seen the difference road projects can make. New roads like the recently opened Ring Road make a difference for people and jobs in the region. Make a difference for people by allowing easier, safer road journeys in less time and in less traffic. Make a difference for jobs by letting business do business, allowing companies to transport their goods and services with greater certainty. These are the reasons we are working on 38 separate road projects alone this year in Waterford. These are the reasons the Government will continue to invest in infrastructure and these are the gains I will continue to work to deliver on for Waterford.
The N25 is an important route, connecting the ports of Waterford and Rosslare, both of which are vital ports for freight and passenger access. The N25 also forms part of the North/South Strategic Road Corridor and Euro Route E30. This corridor runs from Belfast, via Dublin and Rosslare to Cork, thereby linking the three largest centres of population on the island and providing access to the key commercial seaports on the eastern and southern seaboards.
The project, to be completed in 2010, involves the construction of a Bypass extending from west of Kilmeaden to east of Slieverue in Co. Kilkenny. The route crosses the River Suir at Grannagh, close to the location of the existing N24/N9 junction to the north west of Waterford City, thus providing Waterford with a second major bridge over the Suir and allowing traffic on the N25 CorkRosslare route to bypass the City.
The project comprises approximately 23km of dual carriageway, a Suir bridge of approximately 475m length and approximately 4km of single carriageway construction. There is an additional 11km of side roads and "tieins" and a 2km railway realignment in the area of the western link junction.
I am delighted that the new Suir Bridge will be a distinctive and impressive structure. It will be a cable-stayed bridge with a light and elegant design complementing the river and the surrounding landscape. It will be only the second structure of this type on the national road network. The highly impressive Boyne Bridge at Drogheda, which opened in June 2003, was the first such cable stayed bridge and has received widespread commendation. I have no doubt but that in time the Suir Bridge will become a focal point in the South-East region.
The commencement of this scheme as part of the PPP Programme is an important step in the delivery of much needed road infrastructure.
I would like to conclude by acknowledging the contribution of all involved in getting the project to this stage. I know it has been a long but important process and there is still some work to be done with regard to the Woodstown Archaeology site. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, will be receiving a report in the next month or so from the working group established to advise on the long-term strategy to deal with the site. The important point is that we have ensured protection for archaeology while progressing the bypass.
I would like to express my thanks to all the various parties, including Waterford City Council and County Council, the National Roads Authority, The National Museum, the Heritage Council, landowners and others have contributed and co-operated along the way. To the consortium who were successful in securing the contract, the Celtic Roads Group Consortium, I wish you and all those who will be working on the site well in bringing the project to a successful conclusion. Celtic Roads Group were also involved in the construction of the M1 Dundalk Western Bypass PPP which came in ahead of schedule so that augurs well for this project.
While today, we turn the sod, I am sure you, like me, look forward to cutting the ribbon on this project.
My focus has been and will continue to be on working to secure key infrastructural and social investment for the South East. We are making good progress. Project by project, we are securing the resources to deliver real improvements for people, here in the South East and across the country. And we are doing this on or before time and on budget.