Responsibilities of the Authority
The NRA's primary function is "to secure the provision of a safe and efficient network of national roads". It has overall responsibility for the planning and supervision of construction and maintenance of national roads.
In addition, the NRA has a number of specific functions under the Act, including:
- preparing, or arranging for the preparation of road designs, maintenance programmes and schemes for the provision of traffic signs on national roads;
- securing the carrying out of construction, improvement and maintenance works on national roads;
- allocating and paying grants for national roads, and
- training, research or testing activities in relation to any of its functions.
Historically, the NRA has discharged these functions through the relevant local road authorities. However, it is empowered (where it considers it would be more convenient, expeditious, effective or economical to do so) to carry out such functions directly.
The NRA has a general power to direct the road authority to "do any other thing which arises out of or is consequential on or is necessary or expedient for the purposes of or would facilitate the construction or maintenance of a national road".
The NRA may give specific directions to local road authorities relating to a number of matters, including making a motorway scheme; application for a bridge order; acquiring land by compulsory purchaser order; preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and entering into contracts for and/or undertaking specified construction or maintenance works.
Section 57 of the Act, as amended by the Planning and Development Act, 2000, allows the NRA to prepare a scheme for the establishment of a system of tolls in respect of the use of a public road. The NRA may also enter into an agreement with another person whereby that person agrees, inter alia, to pay some or all of the costs of the construction and/or maintenance of the road and/or to upgrade and manage the road. Toll charges may be used to repay all or part of the private funding involved.
Planning and Development Act, 2000
The Planning and Development Act, 2000, has sought to streamline the planning process and has made significant changes to the legislative arena within which the NRA operates. These changes include:
- the transfer to An Bord Pleanála (the Irish Planning Board) of responsibility for the approval of motorway, busway and protected road schemes, and consideration of EISs for such schemes;
- the transfer to An Bord Pleanála of functions in relation to the determination of compulsory purchase orders in respect of the acquisition of land for road schemes and other purposes;
- the objective for An Bord Pleanála to determine CPOs and Motorway Schemes, etc., within 18 weeks of the final date for receipt of submissions and objections;
- the expansion of the role of the NRA to include the making or revoking of toll schemes, and
- the extension of the jurisdiction of a road authority to stretches of foreshore adjoining its functional area.