Twenty-nine provincial towns and rural areas in Northern Ireland are to benefit from a £2.3bn blueprint designed to improve transportation networks, it was announced today.
Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, said the investment would help to improve mobility for everyone over the next eight years.
The funding is aimed at easing congestion by eliminating traffic bottlenecks in rural towns and at upgrading minor roads in country areas.
The lion's share of the money - £1.8bn - goes on new roads and traffic management systems, but there is also £450m for buses and £6m for railways.
The programme also includes an investment of £78m in provision for pedestrians and cyclists.
The sub-regional transport plan (SRTP), which covers the period from now to 2015, applies to towns, cities and areas beyond the Belfast Metropolitan Area.
Provision for the funding has already been made in previous announcements by the Government, but the SRTP identifies how it should be divided up.
A similar raft of improvements for the greater Belfast area was contained in a spending plan published by DRD in 2004.
And the Regional Strategic Transport Network Plan, published in March 2005, covered investment in the trunk road network. The SRTP has been drawn up by DRD in association with local councils and other interested groups, and was published in draft form last year.
Mr Murphy said the SRTP completed the coverage of transport plans across the province.
He said: "I am confident that the plan will facilitate local transport investment and contribute to an improvement in mobility for all, while seeking to minimise adverse environmental impacts.
"It represents a significant proposed investment in transport infrastructure of £2.3bn up to 2015, subject to the availability of funds through the normal budgetary processes.
"It contains practical blueprints for the development of sustainable transport networks in our main towns and cities and guidance for improvements in the rural areas."
Mr Murphy said the plan was based on local transport studies covering 29 towns and cities and "extensive public consultation" undertaken on the draft plan which was released last year.
The department said that the SRTP provided detail in line with the direction and cost proposals agreed in the Regional Transportation Strategy enhanced by the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland.
Last July, Mr Murphy's direct rule predecessor David Cairns announced a £400m package of improvements for the trunk road network.
This has now been augmented by funding of £400m from the Irish government, secured as part of the Assembly's economic package.
However, the Quarry Products Association estimates the backlog on structural road maintenance at £450m.
And the Institution of Civil Engineers estimates that in total some £2bn will be required over the next seven years to upgrade the trunk road network in the province.