Great news for motorists along the west coast is that the M17/M18 motorway from Gort to Tuam is set to open ahead of schedule on Wednesday 27th September.
The 57km extension links with the Gort to Limerick motorway and had been due to open in early 2018. Motorists will save at least 20 minutes as they bypass Gort, Ardrahan, Kilcolgan, Clarinbridge, Oranmore, Claregalway and Tuam.
After a decade of planning and three years construction, drivers will no longer face long summertime delays at the bottleneck junction in Claregalway. The new Gort-Tuam motorway is a public-private partnership financed directly by the State costing an estimated €550 million. The road will be toll-free.
More than 400 people are working on the site, clocking up in excess of 3.5 million hours to the end of June. Cyclists were the first to experience the new road during the charity Great Western Motorway Cycle held on Sunday 10th September.
According to a spokesman for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), “The new road will significantly improve safety and reduce journey times for traffic travelling north-south along the West of Ireland. It will also improve connectivity between the Western Region and Dublin and will significantly assist in the economic development of the Borders, Midlands and Western region.”
Minister of State, Pat Breen, believes the new motorway will give investors an alternative to Dublin and Leinster and provide access to a larger population and labour markets in the west of Ireland including Co Clare. Minister Breen said the new road will open up Shannon Airport to more potential passengers travelling from counties north of Clare.
“The extension of the Gort-Tuam section of the M17/M18 motorway will provide critical access to populations and the labour market in the Mid-West and West, making the region more attractive to investors. Clare will be particularly well positioned between two major university and third level cities, allowing investors in the county speedy access from both. Shannon Airport should also benefit from the extension, with more potential passengers now having motorway access to the international airport,” said Minister Breen.
Minister Breen is also confident of a jobs boost. “Jobs tend to locate close to infrastructure and particularly good air and road infrastructure, with investors also looking to invest in areas with access to a large and skilled workforce. County Clare ticks all of these boxes and come September 27th travel by road to Shannon and Ennis from Galway and Limerick will take less than an hour,” said the Minister of State.
Minister Breen contends that the new motorway will offer an alternative to Dublin for potential investors while also providing ease of access to the capital. “The open road, or in this case motorway, is a clear indication that the west of Ireland is open for business,” concluded Minister Breen.