I share an experience with just about every other Dubliner, and with the many visitors to the capital – the experience of driving, stopping, cursing, palpitating, shivering, fainting and just giving up on the M50. I remember when the first stretch of the M50 North of the Westlink bridge was opened, going only as far as Blanchardstown. The next phases were under construction, and as I crossed over one such building site once in a taxi on the way to Dublin airport, the driver remarked that ‘it would be nice if they weren’t just working on this in their spare time’.
A few years later the M50 was open all the way to Dublin airport, and for a brief moment, it seemed wonderfully easy to drive from West Dublin to catch a flight. And then it all went sour. The four-lane highway (two lanes on each side) was completely unable to handle the volume of traffic. Try to drive there at any time outside of Sunday night and you were likely to be in a queue. If any accident happened, or if there was any trouble at the toll plaza, or for no reason whatsoever, the traffic built up and stopped.
And now we are back at the construction phase, and the uncertainties of barrier free tolling, the latter being as mysterious as anything thought up by St Thomas Acquinas, with the same tussle between eternal salvation and damnation. New lanes are being built, but to a schedule that seems to envisage completion years, rather than months, from now. And it is still easy to drive along the construction sites and find that nobody is there or working. Why, for example, does construction stop over the weekend?
As far as I know, the M50 is the only motorway/freeway in the world with its own website. In many ways that is most appropriate, as it has become such an important part of the collective Irish consciousness. And yet, I would love to spend less time on it, so that I can lead my life where it is more enjoyable and more profitable. I hope that the day when I can do that is dawning. But I doubt it.