Up to £4m will be made available to progress work on easing Belfast city centre congestion - however it is unclear where the money will come from to complete the project.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said today that the money will be used to ready the York Street Interchange Scheme for construction and that a contractor is to be appointed. However he noted that it is unclear how the construction work will be funded.
Minister Hazzard said: “This is an important step in the development of the Interchange which is seeking to address the traffic delays at this heavily congested location. There is no doubt that a scheme of this scale represents a significant investment in our economy. By removing the traffic bottleneck, the new interchange will improve journey time reliability and road safety for motorists, including freight transport, and support the competitiveness of the Port of Belfast with improved links to the strategic road network.
“I am pleased to announce that funding of up to £4m will be allocated to allow the scheme to be developed to a point where construction could begin. The identification of funding for the construction phase will be dependent on future budgets and is unclear at this time.”
A Public Inquiry on the project recommended public consultation, which is now beginning with the local community and key stakeholders, he said. This will be improved by the release of funding to allow a contractor to “come on board” and develop the scheme.
The public inquiry was held in November 2015 into the proposals, which aimed to allow motorists to avoid local streets by providing direct links between the Westlink, the M2 and M3, the construction of underpasses and the construction of a new bridge.
The Inspector’s Report was published on 15 November 2016, when the minister announced his decision to proceed with the scheme, subject to the availability of funding.