The final section of Portlaoise’s new Southern Circular route will remain unfinished unless the €4.7 million cost is met by the government.
The 650 metre piece of road would link the Portlaoise retail park roundabout on the Timahoe road with the Abbeyleix road near O’Moore Park, relieving traffic through the town.
While Laois County Council already applied last year for funding through the Special Improvement grant scheme, senior officials grabbed an opportunity last week to pitch their case to Minister Alan Kelly when he visited Portlaoise train station.
Director of Services Kieran Kehoe says the road is their “number one priority”.
“We have completed the rest of it, spending €13 million through local contributions, we didn’t get any state funding,” he said.
While Minister Kelly was non committal about providing the money, he was more positive about the second request, for €500,000 to build a roundabout on the Summerhill road / Stradbally road junction. The roundabout is urgently needed before three of the town’s six new primary schools open their doors this September.
“That is probably more do-able, follow up on that,” said Dep Kelly, who is Minister of State with the Department of Transport, with responsibility for public and commuter transport.
The roundabout goes to Part XIII planning stage in the coming weeks, the council’s internal planning system. Following a period of public consultation, it could be built during the summer. Both the NRA and the Department of Transport have being asked to contribute as the roundabout will join the N80 Stradbally road with a regional road.
“It’s all down to the money, the minister recognises that the schools are opening up, and we are pushing this quite hard,” Mr Rainey said.
Mr Kehoe and Portlaoise town manager Michael Rainey also highlighted the Togher Inland Port Masterplan to Minister Kelly, giving him brochures to pass on to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton.
The 300 hectare site stretches from the M7 motorway junction at the Midway, through Clonminam as far as the Mountrath road, taking in Irish Rail and IDA land also. It was earmarked a decade ago as part of the National Spatial Strategy.
“We see huge potential for this site, perhaps for logistical or warehousing and distribution, or even event centres or a major production facility,” said Mr Rainey.