M7 Motorway (Ireland) - History

History

The M7 was constructed in stages between 1983 and 2010 to replace the old national route which ran (in order from east to west) through the villages and towns of Naas (1983), Newbridge (1993), Kildare (December 2003), Monasterevin (November 2004), Portlaoise (29 May 1997), Mountrath and Borris-in-Ossory (both 28 May 2010), Roscrea, Moneygall and Toomevara (all 22 December 2010), Nenagh (about 1996) and Birdhill (28 September 2010) and the city of Limerick (May 2004). Today, junctions provide access to all of these places. The old route has been re-classified as a regional road, the R445. A restricted-access junction (junction 11) connects the M7 to the M9 motorway to Waterford, also allowing access from the M9 to eastbound carriageway of the M7.

Until summer 2006, junction numbers started at seven, although only the first five junctions were numbered. This junction numbering scheme was devised when it was believed that a motorway would be built from Naas to the yet-to-be-constructed junction 8 on the M50. While a motorway reservation still exists, it is now unlikely to be built, having been superseded by the widening of the N7 between Newlands Cross and Naas to three lanes and the grade separation of this section. The junction numbers were renumbered to fit into this scheme in July–August 2006.

The construction of the Nenagh to Limerick section was slow and difficult. Work on this section began on 7 December 2006 and was initially due to be completed in May 2009. The total length of the scheme is 38 km (24 mi), of which 10 km (6.2 mi) was the upgrading of the single carriageway Nenagh bypass. The road opened in three stages. The Nenagh bypass re-opened to motorway standard on 17 December 2009 and the Nenagh to Birdhill section opened on 1 April 2010. Problems were encountered while constructing the road over two sections of deep bog at Annaholty and Drominboy near Birdhill and this delayed the opening of the Birdhill to Limerick section by over a year. Parts of the road collapsed over the two bogs and the sections were rebuilt and opened on 28 September 2010. This scheme was originally to be built as a high-quality dual carriageway (HQDC), but it was re-designated motorway by Statutory Instrument on 17 July 2008.

In June 2007, construction commenced on a 28 km (17 mi) section of the M7 motorway between Portlaoise and Castletown, which opened on 28 May 2010 and is subject to a toll north of the M7-M8 interchange. This M7 scheme runs between junctions 18 and 21 on the N7-M7 corridor and bypasses Borris-in-Ossory and Mountrath, this section includes a tie-in to the new 143 km M8.

In March 2008, construction commenced on a 36 km section (22 miles) of the M7 route between Castletown, County Laois and Nenagh, tying into the Portlaoise-Castletown scheme mentioned above at the Borris-in-Ossory junction. It runs between junctions 21 and 24 on the N7-M7 corridor. This scheme was originally planned to proceed as a High Quality Dual Carriageway (HQDC), which would have seen it built to many of the same engineering standard as a motorway, with a design speed of 120 km/h, however a Statutory Instrument was passed on 17 July 2008, re-designating this and many other new HQDC schemes as motorway. Consequently, when this scheme was complete, it opened with full motorway regulations on 22 December 2010.

In May 2004 work was completed on phase 1 of the Limerick Southern Ring Road which consists of approximately 10 km (6.2 mi) of dual carriageway, and joins the M20 road to Cork and the N21 road to Kerry. Two grade separated junctions allow access to Limerick city at Annacotty via the R445 and at Ballysimon via the N24. The N20 Carew park link road was closed permanently to inbound traffic from both the M7 and M20 in June 2010 to facilitate phase 2 of the Limerick southern ring road project. The dual carriageway was redesignated as M7 in 2009. Phase 2 of the Limerick Southern Ring Road opened as part of the N18 and was completed in July 2010.

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