The devastation caused to the road network in County Waterford from torrential rain, snow, frost, ice over the winter will costs a massive €9.5 million to repair.
With Transport Minister Noel Dempsey due to announce his regional and local road grant allocations for 2010 next week, councillors were given the bill at their monthly meeting in Dungarvan on Monday. Later that evening members of the City Council also complained that they’ve been inundated with requests for road repairs, especially in the suburbs.
Seventeen roads around the county have had to be closed to traffic due to the massive damage over the last three months – especially at the turn of the year when temperatures in parts reached -10. Non-national routes were worst hit but some pot-hole damage has also occurred on the N25.
The rugged Comeragh area suffered damage amounting to €3.91m, followed by an estimated €3.68m worth of repairs required in the Dungarvan area. The estimate cost of restoring roads in and around Tramore is €3.31m, while the toll in Lismore has been put at €2.12 million.
Director of Services Michael Quinn said council staff are currently attempting to carry out running repairs to maintain the road network in a fit-for-purpose condition. However, unfortunately some roads had to be closed completely due to the extent of the damage.
Reports are being prepared with a view to re-drafting the 2010 Roadworks Programme already submitted to the Dept of Transport, he said.
It will have to be tailored to prioritise the repair of the road network with a view to returning the entire network to good standard by year-end.
The plan of action drawn up by the Co Council is aimed at carrying out temporary repairs up to mid-February and restoring local roads to drivable condition where no alternative access exists. Roads not in a fit condition for traffic will be closed.
Damaged roads will be reconstructed and closed roads re-opened between the middle of this month to mid-March. The restoration programme to reconstruct other affected roads will go ahead up to mid-June.
An intensive programme of pot-hole repairs using velocity jet patchers will be carried out between mid-February and the end of May. Pothole repair work on the Waterford—Cork Road and the Dungarvan—Lismore—Tallow Road will be completed during February and general repairs will be done from the start of June to mid-July.
From mid-summer onwards, surface dressing will be carried out and it’s hoped to complete repairs on non-national roads by mid-November, Mr Quinn said.
He added that the extensive programme of work will include the restoration and improvement of roadside drainage and a comprehensive programme to prevent run-off water from farmlands on to the public road including direct measures and legal action if necessary.
The Dept of Transport has indicated that the surface dressing allocation for 2010, estimated at €2.3million, can be re-assigned to repair work.
However, with the Department’s overall roads fund reduced by €280.5m in last December’s budget, Waterford’s grant is likely to be a fraction of what’s needed.
Suir representative Mary Greene (FG) said there were significant detours and delays in the Rathgormack area due to road closures, and school buses and heavy vehicles were being diverted onto to unsuitable roads.
Kilmac’s Cllr Ger Barron (Lab) said the Council was facing a crisis and did not have the capacity to restore the network. Tourists visiting the county would think they were in a Third World country, he said. Even national roads in neighbouring counties were disintegrating and there was nothing “positive” coming from the Government.
Kilmeaden member, Cllr John O’Leary (FF) said he was living on a “closed road” with a lot of houses and vehicles were being damaged by the dangerous state of surfaces.
Ardmore’s Cllr Tom Cronin (FF) said Kilbrien Upper and Lackendarra had been very badly hit. There were just three road workers in Kilbrien when here should be six to eight. He made the point that last year up to 21 outdoor staff left the Council. There would have been less damage done if roadside inlets were opened. The surface of the road through Old Parish was “broken up” and roads in Ardmore were also in a poor state.
Dungarvan councillor Brendan Mansfield (SF) said the damage to roads was a national crisis and some of the roads around the county were like Third World roads. He called on the Government to lift the recruitment embargo. Fianna Fail councillors should make representations to Minister Dempsey as they had access to him.
Knockanore’s Cllr James Tobin (FF) said those representations had already been made to the Minister. The damage in the Lismore area was also extensive and two farmers were told that if their road was not repaired within a week their milk could not be collected. Some elderly people could not get out of their houses. Financial grants were no good without the expertise of the outdoor staff.
Dungarvan-based Cllr Billy Kyne (Lab) said despite reduced wages and levies, every man on the outdoor staff turned out in dangerous conditions and did an excellent job during the severe weather. Never was so much expected from so few. He warned that if the Council did not get funding that their roads programme would disintegrate.
He appealed to the Government to lift the recruitment embargo and take back road workers on contract terms. The outdoor staff would not tolerate their work being sent out to contractors, he warned.
Passage representative Cllr John Carey (FG) said the home of an 82-year-old man living in Woodstown had been flooded five times recently. A drainage pipe from the road to the strand was replaced but needed to be increased in size. Stakes on the beach should also be replaced.
Cllr Pat Fitzgerald (SF) said there were 300 residents living on the Coxtown Road in Dunmore East which was badly damaged and needed repairs. There were an average of 1.5 cars in each house and they were paying a total of €135,000 in road tax; it was up to the council to get that money back for road repairs. It was no use telling people there was a dual carriageway to Dublin if they could not get out of their houses.
Lismore member Cllr John Pratt (Lab) suggested that salt depots be located at frost “black spots” where locals could spread salt in bad weather and prevent accidents.
Mr Quinn said that no staff vacancies had been filled and contractors had been let go. He said they must prioritise the roads that needed to be deal with. The staff were doing a good job given the limited resources and great credit was due to them.
Roadside inlets were opened but were blocked again by the heavy rain and water coming off land and down the roads and they had to go back and re-open them in January.
Roads currently closed
The following roads have been closed due to the extensive damage caused in January:
* Dungarvan Area: Ballynicole (Ballynacole-Ballinaparka); Kilbrian Upper; Bohadoon North; Lackendarra (Beary’s Cross-Lackendarra).
* Comeragh Area: Ballindysert; Ballynafinn; Guilcagh Cross to Lahardan; Barranakeen; Balllylaneen-Georgestown; Ballyvadden.
* Lismore Area. Tallow Hill (Junction of Knocknamuck South at Tallow Bridge).
* Tramore Area: Sporthouse (Monahone)and Blacknock.
* The Old Kilmeaden Road will be closed from Monday just gone (Feb 8) for a approximately six weeks to enable repairs to be carried on Whelan’s Bridge, which has been restricted due to collapse for several months.
‘Army should have been called in’
The Co Council later passed a resolution requesting the services of the Irish Army during future periods of very severe inclement weather, in order to cater for people in the more isolated rural upland areas around the county.
Cllr Michael J O’Ryan (FF) said during the Christmas period residents of the Nire and Rathgormack, in the foothills of the Comeragh Mountains, were restricted from travelling outside their immediate houses and farms due to the severe weather conditions. Local farmers rallied together and spread grit where possible to facilitate movement of traffic. While the Council had the use of civil defence services and equipment they were unable to call on those in greatest need.
The Ballymacarbry councillor said he believed he army would greatly assist these people and ensure they had supplies and help grit dangerous stretches of roads. People were severely disappointed not to be able to attend local religious ceremonies over Christmas. The Army should have been approached for assistance, he felt.