Budget pressures affecting routine maintenance of roads and street lighting

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TransportNI’s progress on investment totalling £16.6million for road improvement and maintenance schemes in the Newtownabbey area this year was outlined to councillors on Monday evening.

Divisional Manager Deidre Mackle highlighted a number of works currently planned or progressed, including the £130million A8 Belfast to Larne dual carriageway scheme.

With 75 per cent of the construction complete, the scheme is expected to be open to traffic in spring 2015.

Work is also said to be “progressing well” on the £50million A2 Shore Road dual carriageway scheme and is planned to be completed in summer 2015.

Deirdre Mackle welcomed expenditure on structural maintenance which had allowed the division to deliver many needed projects including over 4.5 kilometres of carriageway resurfacing incorporating works completed at Templepatrick Road, Lower Ballyboley Road, Cloughmore Road and Sandyknowes roundabout.

In addition to the resurfacing programme over 33km of carriageway was surface dressed at a cost of £210,000. Footway resurfacing schemes were also completed in the Abbeyville area of Whiteabbey.

While councillors welcomed the investment in the roads network, they also raised a variety of concerns about issues affecting residents within the borough, including broken street lighting, gritting, road safety, grass cutting and flooding.

They acknowledged the budgetary restrictions facing the department, but called on it to prioritise certain issues such as fixing broken street lights near the homes of elderly and vulnerable people.

Ms Mackle revealed that 12,000 street lights are out across Northern Ireland, and said that that figure is “rising on an hourly basis” as the department doesn’t have the money to pay external contractors to carry out repairs.

Several members voiced concerns about the lack of grass cutting alongside roads in residential areas, but Ms Mackle stressed that due to the shortage in funding, the department was no longer able to pay external contractors and said its in-house team are giving priority to “safety related work.”

The Divisional Manager assured committee members that the concerns raised during the meeting had been noted.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said the impact of current resource budget pressures on his Department is affecting routine maintenance of the road network.

“While there remain pressures on capital budgets, departmental officials will continue to develop resurfacing and traffic management schemes, to enhance safety, to improve traffic flow and provide measures for pedestrians and cyclists.

I will, however, continue to bid in monitoring rounds for further capital for structural maintenance to maintain the integrity of the road network,” he said.