NORTH Antrim MLA, Mervyn Storey, has called on Roads Minister, Danny Kennedy, to end the “cloud and mist” surrounding the dualling of the notorious A26.
Mr. Storey has also called on the Minister to “come clean” on the issue posing the question: ‘Are you going to go ahead with this dualling soon or not?’
The DUP representative was speaking after a meeting of Ballymoney Borough Council considered a report from the Department of Regional Development which spoke about a revised budget for the current period to 2015 and which related to the proposed dualling schemes for the A5, A8 and A2 routes.
The report suggested that development work would also continue on a range of other schemes in the Strategic Road Improvement Programme including the A26.
“At this time, the earliest timescale envisaged for proceedings with this scheme is likely to be 2015-2016,” the report said.
However, it stated that the Investment Strategy for N.I. for the period 2011-21 would provide an indication of the financial position for 2015-2021 and although a draft version had been published last November, the final document had yet to be approved by the Executive.
The report also flagged up Minister Kennedy’s concern over the level of funding for roads and said that once projected allocations were finalised, he would review the roads programme taking account of the level of funding approved.
Mr. Storey says it’s time to end speculation surrounding budges and for the Minister to commit himself one way or another.
“I have written to him pointing out that he has not yet committed money to carrying out the project and that he must get on with that commitment. The danger is that if he doesn’t, something else will come up and we could find ourselves losing money for the A26,” Mr. Storey told the Times.
In addition to dualling, Mr. Storey is pressing hard for roundabouts at the junctions of the A26 with the Knock Road and the Kirk Road.
“I have had numerous complaints from motorists who are forced to wait for up to ten minutes to get out of the junction. This isn’t good enough and we must address this,” he said.
When the matter was raised at the council meeting, the Chief Executive, Mr. John Dempsey, said he did not feel that the response to the council’s query on the progress being made on the route, would not take them a lot further forward.
Councillor Ian Stevenson said they had been waiting a long time for dualling and he would not like to DRD to come back to them in 2015 and say they did not have enough money to proceed.
He proposed that the council write to the First and Deputy First Ministers for funding to be made available along with an expression of “of our very strong desire to see this project progress and also to express our disappointment that we have had to wait so long. “We do not want to see it stalled again.”
Councillor John Finlay said he was happy to second the proposal, but added: “I think we should also write to the Roads Minister enquiring how ready is this road should the money be available.”
The Mayor, Councillor Evelyne Robinson, said the council had a very strong case for dualling.
She said: “There is so much happening on the North Coast with plenty of new tourist initiatives bringing more people to the area. We need this kind of investment to be matched with a proper roads network,” the Mayor added.