The A8 is part of the Eastern Seaboard Key Transport Corridor and is an important link between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland (ROI).
As a busy route, the decision was made to improve the standard of the existing dual carriageway through the creation of a £130 million extension project.
The A8 Belfast to Larne project comprises the construction of 14km of the existing A8 between Coleman’s Corner Roundabout and Ballyrickard Road. A pre-inquiry meeting took place on 23rd May 2011 in order to discuss the then proposed scheme with the project getting underway the following year.
Work on the extension scheme began in August 2012, after the green light was given in May 2012, and continues to make good progress. The project is being implemented by the Department for Regional Development for Northern Ireland with Lagan, Ferrovial, Costain Joint Venture as the main contractor carrying out the work.
In September 2013, to update road users on the state of the project, and to highlight any road closures, Ferrovial, Costain Joint Venture set up a dedicated website. In December the website announced the closure of a number of road closures in order to carry out the construction works in a safe and timely manner.
Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy, said:
“Progress on the improvement scheme is impressive and it is on schedule to be complete and open to traffic by Spring 2015. With over 80% of the pipe culverts and other utility diversions complete, works are progressing well on the key structures and bulk earthworks activities.
“Upgrading the A8 to dual carriageway will help grow the local economy and contribute to wider economic development across Northern Ireland. The construction industry is vital to growth and I am determined to ensure that local firms are given every opportunity to gain experience and employment through projects such as this major improvement scheme.
“In addition to the hundreds of construction jobs this scheme has already provided, I am impressed that the contractor, Lagan Ferrovial Costain, recruited three people who were on the unemployment register, employed seven placement students, four apprentices and has also provided 257 ‘Steps to Work’ placement weeks.”
The scheme is part funded by the European Commission under its Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) funding and incorporates a new roundabout at Shane’s Hill Road, as well as a number of new junctions and bridges.
During the works, advanced archaeological investigations works took place to identify anything of historical significance along the route. A 2000BC Neolith roundhouse settlement was uncovered at the A57 Templepatrick Road junction.
The Department for Regional Development for Northern Ireland is one of 12 Northern Ireland Departments and is responsible for the implementation of regional strategic planning and development policies; transport strategy and sustainable transport policies; and the provision and maintenance of all public roads. In addition, the Department also implements policies and support work for air and sea ports and sewerage services.
To keep up to date with the progress of the A8 Belfast to Larne project, please visit: www.a8lfc.com. For further information about the Department for Regional Development Northern Ireland, please visit: www.drdni.gov.uk.