Constructors welcome green light for start on £150m Co Tyrone A5 road project
Firms in the construction supply chain are hoping for an economic boost after the £150m first phase of the A5 corridor in Co Tyrone was given the go-head.
A construction boss said the news signalled that Northern Ireland was finally receiving the infrastructure investment which had been needed "for decades".
The Department for Infrastructure said work will start early next year on the A5 Western Transport Corridor between Newbuildings and north of Strabane.
Under the Fresh Start Agreement, the Republic's government will contribute £75m over three years to the road project.
The department's decision follows a Planning Appeals Recommendation (PAC) that the work should begin.
John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF), said the scheme was of "significant strategic importance" to the economy. "The direct and indirect benefits will equate to hundreds of sustainable jobs as well as many opportunities for the main contractors' extensive supply chain," he said.
He added the A5 go-ahead came alongside work on the A6 from Randalstown to Castledawson and a live tender for the first phase of the A6 between Londonderry and Dungiven.
"We are looking at a period of huge investment in the infrastructure of the north west and west of NI which has been in need for decades," he said.
"Once completed, all of the schemes, with the addition of the York Street Interchange, will significantly enhance NI's strategic transport connectivity."
But Mr Armstrong said a balance still needed to be achieved on spending on flagship projects - of which the A5 is one - and spending on day-to-day projects.
"The Executive's flagship schemes stand on their very clear economic merits," he said.
"We have though consistently said that a balance must be struck in budgetary planning between how much resource is spent on these and other areas, such as roads maintenance, so to avoid a massive cliff edge for the vast majority of firms not engaged on the flagship projects."
As he announced that the scheme was getting the go-ahead, Peter May, the department's permanent secretary, said it would benefit companies in the area.
"The scheme should lead to an increase in demand for local suppliers of construction materials, as well as a boost to commercial trade in the surrounding area," he added.
"There will also be a considerable focus on social sustainability with the construction contract incorporating targeted recruitment and training opportunities for both young and long-term unemployed people."
Further phases will be announced when funding is made available.