First phase of Cork's €215m Dunkettle upgrade to open before year's end

Date: 06 Apr 2021

The first main section of the €215m upgrade of the Jack Lynch Tunnel/Dunkettle Interchange will open later this year, providing a direct route for motorists heading from the Tivoli direction onto the M8 Cork-Dublin motorway.

It forms part of an approach to “work from the outside in” in order to take as much traffic away from the roundabout on the northern side of the tunnel as possible, before the serious work begins, which will include building of a number of elevated slip roads to take traffic to local destinations, such as Glanmire, Glounthaune and so on.

When the M8 slip road opens it will divert a lot of Dublin-bound traffic away from the signalised roundabout.

The other slip road, bringing southbound traffic off the M8, onto the N25 (Cork-Waterford road) won’t open until 2023. This is because it runs along a marshy area and needs a lot of piling and settlement of infill.

New flyover

Jim McCarthy, a senior resident engineer for the project, said the second vital opening will be a new flyover which will run from Bury’s Bridge southwards (over the N25) and provide a better western connection into Little Island.

He said this will greatly alleviate traffic congestion into Little Island via the existing flyover to the east of the new one, which is expected to be open by the end of next year.

It will also have a dedicated bus corridor “and will take serious numbers of vehicles away from the current interchange”.

Mr McCarthy said Covid-19 travel restrictions had allowed some works to progress, with much less impact on traffic.

“Benefits include certain works on the road network being feasible during daytime, where greater traffic volumes would have required them to be completed by night,” he said.

Upheaval to motorists

However, he has warned that even with the ‘outside in method’, there will come a stage when it will be virtually impossible not to have some works in the junction’s central area which will cause a bit of upheaval to motorists.

“There’s no doubt there will be stages in the works where there will be delays [to traffic] and these will happen in 2022 and 2023. There will be short-term pain, but long-term gain is where it’s at,” he said.

He said every effort would be made to minimise delays for motorists and if certain lanes have to be closed off for work it will be done at night if at all possible.

Mr McCarthy said the whole project is expected to be completed in April 2024 and they are “on schedule”.

When finalised, there will not be a signalised roundabout at the northern side of the tunnel and traffic travelling through the tunnel’s northern and southern bores will be able to move without such interruptions.

Rail and bus connections

Once the whole project is completed, it’s expected that further rail and bus connections will be established at the eastern side of the tunnel at a ‘transport hub’.

It’s expected it will be developed at the Irish Rail freight container site.

“The reason you don’t see buses travelling through the tunnel at present is because they can’t rely on a proper timetable. We expect this to happen when the project is completed,” Mr McCarthy said.

It’s envisaged the freight site will be developed in the years ahead into a massive ‘park and ride’, where motorists will have the option of jumping on a train into the city or Midleton from a new railway station (Little Island West).

It will also have bus connections to a number of different routes. Motorists will have the option to leave their cars and cycle along a number of dedicated cycleways being developed on the northern side of the tunnel, eventually running from Midleton to Cork City.

Motorists may have marvelled at the amount of work currently going on in the area, especially during Covid-19 lockdowns.

But it hasn’t been easy. Mr McCarthy explained that about 100 workers per day are on site, with the contractor Sisk. The site is also visited by a myriad of personnel from different Government departments and agencies on a regular basis.

The site has strict Covid-19 rules and does its own contact tracing. To date, they haven’t recorded one positive case.

Live traffic app

Traffic volumes at the Dunkettle Interchange have dramatically increased back to about 75,000 vehicles daily during the current lockdown, compared to just 36,000 during the first lockdown in March 2020.

As restrictions ease further, traffic is likely to get heavier and there will be some pain for motorists as works proceed on its upgrade. This has led the senior resident project engineer Jim McCarthy to advise motorists to get an app which will tell them the ‘real-time’ situation there.

Prior to the pandemic, the average weekday traffic travelling via the interchange was in excess of 105,000 vehicles a day. However, on some days, this exceeded 120,000 vehicles.

During the initial public health restrictions in March/April 2020, average weekday volumes dropped to as low as 36,000 vehicles, or 35% of pre-pandemic volumes.

Currently, average weekday volumes travelling via the interchange are about 75,000 vehicles, which is nearly 75% of pre-pandemic volumes.

The DunkettleLive traffic app provides those travelling through the junction the information they need at a glance before setting out. The app – and accompanying website,
– provides live camera streams of traffic conditions on the main approaches, live journey times on the main routes through the junction and push notifications issued by the project team to alert motorists to any incidents which could cause delays in the area.

The app has already been downloaded by more than 12,000 people and Mr McCarthy expects this number to increase in the months ahead.



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