COUNTY Mayor Cllr Declan Hurley has said Cork needs half a billion euro – on top of the €44m announced this week – to bring the roads network up to an acceptable standard.
Cllr Hurley made the comments following Transport Minister Shane Ross’ announcement of a €44m investment programme for 2018 for regional and local roads in Cork, which includes €25m for restoration improvement, €4.3m for restoration maintenance and €1.69m for bridge rehabilitation and €1.3m for drainage works. ‘We need at least €549m to bring our roads up to the standard they should be in, never mind the money needed for maintaining them down the line,’ Cllr Hurley told The Southern Star.
‘This figure has been collated from our engineers over the past 12 months in an in-house audit at Cork County Council. The figure is Utopia, so even if we get it, we don’t even have the manpower to carry out the work and that’s another issue, in that we need more outdoor staff.’
While the funding announced is an increase of €8m on last year, Cllr Hurley pointed out that it falls way short of the €65m which Cork County Council received in 2008.
‘I would hope the increase we got this year was on foot of Minister Ross coming to West Cork last year and meeting us. He even said his visit had “opened his eyes” but we are going to have to go back and tell him that we need more funding,’ added Cllr Hurley.
Cllr Hurley called for a ‘back to basics’ approach when it comes to road maintenance and wants to ‘see the man on the ground cleaning drains and maintaining water tables.
‘Since 2008 we have lost at least half our outdoor staff and we need more on the ground. Also there is a bigger volume of traffic on roads and they weren’t built for it, and it’s more than just tarring and chipping that’s needed.’
Cork South West Independent TD Michael Collins, who raised the issue in the Dáil last week, welcomed the funding announcement but said it’s ‘not scratching at the surface for what is required’ and the pleas for more funding is ‘falling on deaf ears.’
‘We are in an extremely serious situation here in West Cork in relation to underfunded roads and I have pleaded with Minister Ross and it’s just not filtering through to the TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland),’ Deputy Collins told The Southern Star.
‘People are justifiably angry and my office is inundated with people calling for claims forms for damage to their cars due to potholes.’
A Department of Transport spokesperson said that Cork County Council has seen a dramatic increase of 48% in the funding since 2016 and has the largest grant allocation of any local authority.