THE Eastern Gateway Bridge is 'integral' to the ambitious plans for redeveloping Cork's docklands.
Hopes are growing locally that the long-awaited bridge may finally see the light after Housing Minister Simon Coveney confirmed that it may be part of plans to deliver more than 3,000 new homes to Cork.
A significant investment in Cork's transport links is expected to be included as part of a package to open up sites on both sides of the river for developers.
The strategy, unveiled by Minister Coveney this week, includes a €15.5 million development plan for the south docklands, with Albert Quay and the Eastern Gateway Bridge expected to form part of this.
The long-awaited infrastructure would link Tivoli to the south docklands, delivering as many as 700 homes and easing congestion in city areas.
The bridge is crucial to the city's success, according to Fianna Fáil councillor Tom O'Driscoll.
Mr O'Driscoll said that the quays are struggling to meet traffic capacity in their present state and that building additional homes in the area without upgrading infrastructure would pose issues.
"The Eastern Gateway Bridge is essential," he said.
"If we get any sort of development in the docklands area at all then we need to have the bridge.
"As it stands, Ship Street and that area gets very congested at busy times of day. If we add extra offices or homes, this congestion will only get worse."
The docklands is currently the subject of a number of ambitious plans.
Just last week, proposals for a skyscraper of offices, residential accommodation and a hotel was mooted on the Port of Cork site, incorporating the existing bonded warehouse.
This is in addition to the plans for the Horgan's Quay site adjacent to Kent Station, which is earmarked for both office and residential space, and the plans for further residential development on the Kennedy Quay side of the River Lee.
Elsewhere in the quay area, plans for further office developments at Albert Quay and Anderson's Quay are in motion, with significant work proposed for the Marina, too.
Mr O'Driscoll said, "The people living in this area will be moving both north and south and this would cause chaos on the existing road network. The Eastern Gateway Bridge would ease all of these issues.
"Without it, it would be gridlock."
The Fianna Fáil councillor has tabled a motion with Cork City Council, urging the local authority to formally request funds for the project.
"It is an integral part of the docklands," he said.
"We have ambitious plans throughout the entire area and this is a key part."
Previously proposals for the bridge came in for criticism by the Port of Cork, who maintained that it could pose issues for shipping traffic on the River Lee.
However, with the Port's plans to move their operations further downriver gathering pace, Mr O'Driscoll expects less opposition when it comes to building the bridge.