The number of vehicles travelling on the traffic-choked South Ring Road each day has increased by 8,000 over the last four years.
The latest figures reveal that 87,000 vehicles are on parts of the road every day this year, giving a clear picture of worsening commuter problems in Cork.
The highest volume is seen between the Kinsale Road and Douglas Interchange but traffic between the Jack Lynch Tunnel and Mahon Junction has also increased dramatically, from 60,000 in 2014 to average volumes of more than 68,000 so far this year.
Volumes are smaller further out the road between Ballinora and Curraheen but have still risen by close to 7,000 since 2014.
The N40 is not the only road facing significant extra traffic. Volume on the M8 between the Glanmire junction and Dunkettle has increased from just over 20,000 to more than 24,000 since 2014, and traffic on the interchange between the N25 and N28 in Little Island has increased by more 5,500 per day.
Dunkettle to Tivoli, Blarney to Blackpool and Ballincollig to Ovens have also all seen increases.
As business groups and local politicians urge the Government to invest more in Cork roads, the statistics from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) show the increasing pressure on all the major roads around the city.
Fine Gael councillor John Buttimer said the danger is that queues cause drivers to behave recklessly, with a knock-on risk of accidents. Minor accidents are a daily occurrence, he said.
The TII recorded 125 separate incidents on the N40 in 2017, of which 41 were traffic collisions. It said it takes an average of 11 minutes to respond to incidents and they last an average of 32 minutes, but drivers will say the consequences last far longer.
“If anything happens on the N40 the city grinds to a halt, we have seen it happen and there doesn’t appear to be a plan B,” Mr Buttimer said.
The TII also ranked how well the road was working on an hourly basis, rating it at six levels from ‘free flow’ to ‘forced or breakdown flow’. Parts of the N40 approach reach ‘forced or breakdown flow’ on a daily basis.
A TII in-depth demand study of the road last year suggested a range of traffic management measures.
“The study has shown that demand for use of the N40 will continue to rise in the coming years, with congestion, delays and incidents all increasing significantly if this demand is not actively managed,” it said.
Mr Buttimer would like to see some of the suggestions implemented urgently.
“We need them to happen and we need the senior Oireachtas members to lobby actively for it, we need the funding to come through,” he said.
Options the study put forward include upgrades to the motorway and the junctions. It also said an upgrade of the Dunkettle interchange will help and suggested that alternative routes would alleviate pressure. Examples suggested include a Douglas East-West link and an airport–Sarsfield Road link.
Other measures looked at addressing driver behaviour, such as using variable speed limits, CCTV and variable messaging signage to try and decrease incidents that then cause logjams.
One of the measures looked at in the TII study was tolling but Mr Buttimer does not believe that would help in Cork.
“It had been touted before that there might be a toll on the tunnel but all that would do is divert traffic into the city,” he said.
“The Dublin tunnel is primarily to take the heavy goods out of the city whereas the tunnel in Cork is an arterial route, it serves a different purpose.”
But Mr Buttimer also insists that local authorities have a crucial role to play. “We have allowed skewed development to happen across the city,” he said.
“If you look at all the educational facilities, all the hospitals and a lot of the industry, they are on the southside. In the last six to 12 months, you can see the uplift in sheer volume of traffic again on the roads.
“So while the TII has responsibility for the road, we as a council have a responsibility too.”