An interesting little scrap has broken out between An Taisce and the NRA. As reported in the Irish Times yesterday, An Taisce has accused the NRA of using false data, while the Irish Independent reports that the NRA dismisses the criticism.
The criticism by An Taisce refers to traffic projections which are now seven years old, and the fact that traffic volumes have been falling. The NRA counters that roads are build with a longer time horizon in mind. While I agree with the NRA that roads are build with a longer time horizon in mind, it is nevertheless true that the projections are seriously out of date and that the starting position has changed significantly. Furthermore, there are at least some schemes, which are grossly over designed. An Taisce points to a refusal for planning permission for a dual carriageway between Bohola and Ballina, because the NRA apparently failed to support the project on traffic grounds.
Unfortunately gold-plating of projects is not unusual. In the ESRI Mid-Term Evaluation of NDP 2000-2006 we pointed out that “roads with capacity of 55,500 AADT, or anywhere near it, appear to be a significant overdesign for the numerous lightly-trafficked sections of the N8 and N9”. Such schemes cannot pass a reasonable cost-benefit analysis when compared to more appropriately sized schemes. Unfortunately, the lesson does not seem to have been learned and the tax payer is expected to pay for overdesign again (the fact that some of the schemes are PPPs is irrelevant here as these also have to be paid for by tax payers).
Take the example of the N2, for which there are two proposed schemes in the system. I have already referred to the idiotic scheme to by-pass Slane where the key issue could be simply dealt with via a HGV ban.
The second scheme is in North Monaghan, where a by-pass of Monaghan and Emyvale to dual carriageway standard is being pursued. Interestingly Monaghan has already been by-passed and anyone who knows the road also knows that there is no danger of congestion except through Emyvale (for which a by-pass is likely to be supported by some analysis). Traffic counts bear this out – average total volumes (north and southbound) for 2010 amount to 5,413 AADT. Why then are we building for 35,000 AADT – almost seven times the current volume? Further south, the section between Castleblaney and Clontibret has been upgraded to 2+1, and further south still between the M1 and Castleblaney a wide 2 lane road is perfectly sufficient to achieve the target level of service (80km/h) – both of these sections of road carry a higher level of traffic than that, which is supposed to be upgraded to dual-carriageway standard.
The construction costs of a dual carriageway are 82% higher (according to the NRA Road Needs Study) than for a wide 2 lane road – can we really afford such goldplated schemes?