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Article - Mayor considers benefits of M9

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City Mayor Martin Brett considers the benefits of the new M9

By any measure this is a good news story for our city and county.

I can remember not so long ago when our wonderful city suffered somewhat from its poor road links to other parts of the country.

Driving to Dublin in the early eighties wasn't an easy task. Those of you of a certain age will remember the nightmare of travelling through the bottleneck of Leighlinbridge, a congested Barrack Street in Carlow and the drudgery of delays through Kilcullen and Naas. Then you had to battle numerous sets of traffic lights on the Naas Road. On a good day Kilkenny to Dublin would take two and a half hours; on a bad day you could add on more than hour. Likewise trips to Waterford City, Tramore or Bellview Port were memorable for all the wrong reasons. A journey of thirty miles sometimes felt like fifty especially if you were hemmed in behind a line of heavy goods vehicles. Self preservation meant you didn't overtake and resigned yourself to teeth grinding or playing your favourite pieces on a cassette or CD.

But the Country's fortunes began to change in the late nineties when scheme planning and route selection for the M9 commenced in 2000 and 2001 I applauded the progress. Nonetheless, such was the long history of the N9 that I remained dubious of it ever proceeding to construction. Frankly, I despaired at our capacity as a nation to deliver on major projects like this.

In 2005 I attended a function of the institution of Engineers of Ireland in Kilkenny. I was Mayor of the City at the time and I remember listening to former Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen announce to the large attendance that the M9 Waterford to Kilcullen scheme would receive government support and proceed to construction.

You can imagine my delight therefore when an Board Pleanala approved the scheme documents and when the project went to tender in 2006.

Once the green light was given I was confident we had the right people in the right place to provide infrastructure to a world standard. And so, this has proved the case with the completion of the final 40km of motorway last week, some three months ahead of schedule.

Like many of the readers of this newspaper I have travelled on the open sections of the M9. I also had a chance to drive the new M10 link road and the experience the pleasure of driving from the Paulstown junction to Danesfort on the new road.

My immediate reaction is that the motorway is very well constructed and shows off our rolling green countryside to optimum effect. It is also copious, generous and functional, capable of serving the needs of Kilkenny and the South East Region for generations to come.

But more importantly, in my view it builds on the theme of transformational change that has been taking place in Kilkenny for some years now. This I am sure is a good thing. It will assist the social and economic regeneration of our cherished city and county and our next target can be improvement of links to Rosslare Port and Wexford starting with the By Pass of New Ross.

The M9 represents a major milestone in the evolution of Kilkenny's potential economic development. It gives us as citizens, business people or students the chance to put our best foot forward on the Dublin or regional stages. Conversely external business interests both at home and abroad can more easily turn face and look towards Kilkenny.

The old walls protecting our fair city crumbled many years ago. The 9th of September 2010 will forever be remembered as the day Kilkenny finally opened up to the regions and when access to our city improved significantly.

I am frankly of the view that Kilkenny will always retain and build on its unique identity of heritage, culture and excellence in crafts and sports. There is no longer a need to atomize the city's various components. Rather we can now start and continue planning in confidence with what we have to offer the world and commence a robust debate on the future of our city, our society on the back of decade of record investment in our County.

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