THE Limerick Tunnel is part of a scheme aimed at improving roadways in the greater Limerick area. The entire project features 10 km of dual carriageway, five underpasses, 11 bridges and its own traffic management system.
The tunnel itself passes under the River Shannon near Bunlicky Lake. It is part of the Limerick city bypass that connects Dublin Road (N17) to Ennis Road (N18). The tunnel stretches 675 metres under the river and extends into a causeway across Bunlicky Lake. It serves to link all national routes converging on Limerick.
The Limerick Tunnel can accommodate up to 40,000 vehicles per day. This has major implications for the city of Limerick, promising to remove traffic and reduce congestion more quickly and efficiently. It also improves access times to industrial estates, Shannon Airport and to other major cities in Ireland.
Allowing so many vehicles to bypass Limerick city centre altogether also has environmental implications for the city. Pedestrians and cyclists can get around the city centre more freely, and air quality will improve.
Safety is a priority in the Limerick Tunnel. Inside the tunnel, pedestrian exits are located every 50 metres, such that drivers are never more than 25 metres from an emergency exit while in the tunnel. Emergency stations in the tunnel are equipped with fire extinguishers and direct telephones.
The Limerick Tunnel cost €660 million to construct, and the tolls that are levied on motorists serve to recover this expense as well as subsidise ongoing maintenance and repairs. The amount drivers pay is determined by their class of vehicle.
The single tolling station is north of the river, situated such that only those who have made use of the tunnel are required to pay a toll. Drivers who drive on a portion of the project area without actually driving through the tunnel are not tolled.
There are three major pay options for motorists. Select lanes are manned by an operator and are set aside for those who are uncertain how much they should pay as well as for those who do not have exact change. Automatic lanes accept exact change and offer faster service. Locals or those who make regular use of the toll roads in Ireland can also have their car fitted with an electronic tag for expedited passage. As of 2013, motorcycles pay €1.00 and motor cars €1.90. Check the Limerick Tunnel website for a list of current tolls.