CORK politicians have rejected the suggestion by a professor of economics that the planned Cork-Limerick motorway is ‘exactly the wrong thing’ for the region.
A motorway between the two cities, along a similar route to the existing N20, had been planned almost a decade ago but was shelved during the economic downturn.
In 2017, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the project would go ahead and last month he confirmed it would be built to the west of the existing road network.
Edgar Morgenroth, a Professor of Economics at Dublin City University, said over the weekend that the N20 route would encourage “a sprawled-out population” that would further hollow out the cities of Cork and Limerick.
But Fine Gael Cork Senator Jerry Buttimer said: “Those who criticise are talking nonsense and fail to understand the importance of the M20. These people should try to convince people on the need for investment in infrastructure and in promoting an alternative to Dublin rather than sowing confusion.”
Independent councillor John Paul O’Shea agreed, saying: “All the surveys and independent reports that have been done said that we need to link cities like Cork and Limerick.”
“The current road, the N20, that runs from Cork to Limerick is severely overcrowded,” he said.
“There is more to this than just basic road infrastructure. It is about enhancing the towns that lead off it to make sure they become stronger and bigger. Towns off it can flourish and develop and become feeder towns to the large cities.
“We all know that Dublin is crazy at the moment and we need alternatives to that.”
Meanwhile, the Green Party has called for Cork and Limerick to be linked by motorway via the M8 at Cahir or Mitchelstown.
They claim this would cost approximately half as much as an M20 and with little difference in journey times.
“What Professor Morgenroth is saying is exactly the message we’ve been hearing from business interests around Cork,” Oliver Moran, the Green Party’s representative in Cork North Central, said.
“Instead of concentrating on growing our regional cities, an overriding aim of this plan seems to be to put small towns like Charleville and Buttevant on the motorway network.
“The result is counter-productive. It’s spreading development too thin. If we don’t concentrate on building up our regional cities first, the consequence will be that there will never be critical mass in rural Ireland to compete with Dublin.”
But Mr O’Shea said this was a poorly-thought-through plan.
“The existing M8 is not able to take the traffic that it already has, never mind the Cork-Limerick traffic,” he said. “Then you have to think about where the M8 enters Cork city, at the tunnel. Do you want to have all the Limerick and Galway traffic coming through there when there is an avenue to the east of the city for them to come through the N20 route?”
Senator Buttimer added: “This proposed new route will offer a motorway corridor to Sligo. A seamless motorway from Cork to Limerick offers huge economic potential, and thousands of new jobs.”
The National Planning Framework is due to be launched by the Government on Friday.