Roads Minister Danny Kennedy has cut the first sod of the £100m A8 Belfast to Larne dual carriageway scheme.
The project involves upgrading 14.4km of the existing A8, between Coleman’s Corner Roundabout and Ballyrickard Road, to dual carriageway standard, and incorporates a new roundabout at Shane’s Hill Road. There will also be a number of grade-separated junctions, bridges and left-in left-out junctions along the route, which will provide access to the new road and local access.
The aim is to improve journey times for this stretch of the A8 and to help remove the issues associated with platooning of traffic, reducing driver frustration and improving the safety performance of the route for all road users.
Construction of the scheme by the joint venture of Lagan, Ferrovial, Costain started in August, with the works expected to be completed in spring 2015.
Mr Kennedy said: “These works, which will take 34 months to complete, are of significant importance to the economic development of Northern Ireland.
“Upgrading the A8 to a dual carriageway will help grow the local economy and contribute to the wider economic development in Northern Ireland, both in the short term and in the long term. It will also help with the development of the Port of Larne, which is the second largest port in Northern Ireland.
“As part of the Trans European Network, the A8 is a strategically significant European route, which provides an important East-West link between Northern Ireland and Scotland via the Port of Larne.”
Site works are currently ongoing, which include the erection of temporary fencing, archaeology digs, culvert installation and other enabling works along the scheme.
It is estimated that 55,000 tonnes of concrete, 1,300 tonnes of steel reinforcement and 310,000 tonnes of bituminous material will be used, which will lead to an increase in demand for local suppliers of construction material.
The Minister also thanked local landowners who have been affected by the project and said: “I would like to acknowledge the impact that this scheme has had on the affected landowners; in some cases this impact has been significant in terms of land loss.
“I would thank them for their co-operation to date and in anticipation of their continued co-operation throughout the construction period.”
Finally, Mr Kennedy congratulated all those involved in reaching this “important milestone” for the Department and wished them all the success during the works.
“I would like to wish the delivery team, including Lagan, Ferrovial, Costain Joint Venture, their designer URS, their sub-contractors, as well as my Department’s Roads Service and their consultants ARUP, every success during scheme construction.
“I look forward to the completion of the scheme and have no doubt it will be of significant benefit to both strategic traffic and other road users in the local community,” the Minister concluded.