N81 Blessington-M9

Could Open : 2025 Status : Not under consideration
N81 Road Logo


Dual Carriageway : 12.8 km

The N7 is an overloaded trunk route that connects Dublin with the country's second, third and fifth largest cities, as well as providing the main route for a string of large midlands towns. It has high traffic countsand is in urgent need of further 6-laning beyond east Naas where a 2006 project ended.

Described elsewhere, the M47 is a proposed new motorway that would parallel the N7 to the north. There are considerable difficulties associated with this, however, and it is unlikely to proceed. Another solution would be to utilise the N81 as an alternative access route to Dublin. The N81 is a rural route that winds through the Wicklow Mountains, before turning into an urban dual carriageway as it passes through Tallaght and finally an urban street all the way into the heart of Dublin. To set the N81 up as an alternative access route, a connection would be needed between the M7 and the N81 southwest of Tallaght, hereafter called the N81 Link.

The N81 Link would involve building a new dual carriageway from Blessington west to the M7. There is a current NRA scheme (Tallaght to Hollywood Cross) to replace much of the N81 between Dublin and Hollywood Cross with a new road within the next decade. This road will be partially dual carriageway near Dublin and single thereafter. The N81 Link starts at the point where the dual will probably end and terminates on the M7 between junction 10 west of Naas and the future junction with the proposed M40 Leinster Outer Orbital Route. The part of the M7 between this connection point and the M9 split would probably need auxiliary lanes (bringing it to 8 lanes total for 2.3 km) in order to avoid weaving.

The advantage of this scheme is that it would allow M7 and M9-origin traffic to use the N81 to get to Dublin instead of the overused N7 Naas Dual Carriageway. The N81 only becomes an urban dual carriageway as it passes through Tallaght and does not suffer from excessive traffic congestion.

In order to resolve the numbering issues that this idea throws up, a related project would be to renumber the N81 as the N10 from Dublin as far as the M7 via the N81 Link. The rest of the existing N81, south of Blessington, would still be the N81. The existing N10, at Kilkenny, would be renumbered N79 (a currently unused number.) A number in the 70s was chosen because the existing national secondary routes that run through Kilkenny are N76 and N77. This idea also has the advantage that the current anomaly could be resolved - whereby the N10 is west of the N9 (and thus violates the national route numbering plan, under which Dublin radials are numbered anti-clockwise starting from the top). The N10 would now lie to the east (clockwise) of the M9.

The effect of all these changes are as follows:

  • - Traffic heading south on the N81 can deviate west as it bypasses Blessington and join the M7. Poulaphuca, Baltinglass and Tullow traffic would continue south on the existing N81, while N80 traffic can either exit at the turnoff for the N80 at M9 junction 5 or else stay on the N81 and continue as currently.

  • - Traffic heading south out of Dublin, starting either within or on the M50, heading for M7 or M9 (southwest and south coast destinations) can either use the N7/M7 via Naas or the N81 and the N81 Link.

  • - Traffic heading northeast on the M7 or M9 can access Dublin either by continuing northeast on the N7 or by taking the turnoff for the N81 Link. This turnoff might be especially advantageous for reaching destinations in southwest or south Dublin like Tallaght and Sandyford, enabling motorists to avoid the busy junction 9 (Red Cow Interchange).

  • - Traffic heading west on the N80 from the east coast and looking for N81 destinations will join it heading north as normal, though if they are heading for Tallaght it would be faster to continue as far as the M9 and turn off for the N81 Link after the M9 joins the M7.

  • - Local traffic in the Baltinglass/Tullow area can still use the existing N81 and other regional roads in the area, which should be much quieter.

Note: In 2012 this proposal was changed. The N81 Link Road used to terminate on junction 2 of the M9. Now it terminates on the M7 just west of Jct 11 (Naas).

Wikipedia page on this road


Origin Blessington, N81
Terminates M9 Junction 2, near Kilcullen
Places Served -
Routes Spawned -
Intersects M7


Please take a minute to answer a very short survey on your opinion of this road proposal.

Kevin Phelan does not like this scheme at all! He rates it 'useless' with a 'poor' alignment and thinks it should be lower spec than a dual carriageway. He has the following comment to make:
"What a stupid waste of money."

Anonymous from Ireland rates this scheme 1/10 and its alignment 1/10 and reckons the standard should not be changed - the road should be
"...left as it is - This is a waste of money and will destroy everything in its path."

Yet another anonymous from Ireland rates this scheme 1/10 and says,
"It would make more sense to upgrade the N81, no need for new road madness, waste of money."

Gerry from the United States rates this scheme 10/10 and its alignment 5/10.
"Straighten N81 to Baltinglass, put in passing lanes both ways, do same from Baltinglass to Moone along R747. This would cost a fraction. Look at the double white lines on the straight parts of N81, it's crazy, basically it's a white line from Balto to Tallaght, get the finger out."
The R747 improvement he refers to passes diagonally from Moone near the N78 to Athy down to Baltinglass and is a southeast routing.

Eeiiimy rates this scheme 1/10 and its alignment 2/10. He says,
"Upgrade what is there already, by pass Blessington and other bottleneck areas. Waste of Money, upgrade existing N81. Destroying beautiful landscape with unnecessary road!"

Concerned Citizen is very strongly against this scheme. He rates it a resounding 1/10, its alignment 1/10, and thinks it should be lower spec. He has these comments to make:
"Road is completely unnecessary. Diverts heavy traffic flows through quite rural mountain area, disrupts lives of locals with no benefit to them. ...Dual Carriageway through Brittas (Dublin Mountain Area) is completely contrary to the Outstanding Natural Character of the area and cannot be in with the sensitivity of the natural landscape."

Really, does anybody like this scheme? Someone else rates this scheme 1/10 and its alignment 1/10 but contradicts this by saying it should be higher spec (this is probably a mistake on their part when filling out the survey). When asked if they have a comment to make, they state bluntly:

"Paul, a Blessington commuter", has come out in favour of this scheme. He rates it 7/10 on both counts. On the standard, he thinks it should be higher (than dual carriageway):
"Motorway slip roads with bridges for crossing traffic but designated as N10, not as a motorway."
Specifically, he is proposing motorway-standard interchanges but without the legal declaration of motorway, i.e. the road should still be considered an all-purpose dual carriageway.
He continues:
"The congestion from City West to the M50 needs to be addressed as it currently is. Adding additional traffic to that congested area is not recommended before resolving it."
Personally I think new roads in between City West and the M50, such as the Outer Ring Road (2008) and Katherine Tynan Road (2012), have probably ameliorated the congestion he refers to.

"Via Ballymore User" has written an interesting counter proposal - online dualling instead of offline new build:
"Widen the road the whole way to Baltinglas to almost dual carriageway width. Take only the amount of land required for this for roadway use and have a "divider" running down the middle of it to prevent 2-way traffic on any of the sides. Straighten the road where possible and have the bad bends taken out to make it a safer place for users. An extra 6/10ft. should be added to the hard shoulder in order to facilitate a duct for all electric,Phone and Gas systems. This will assist bringing facilities to the communities nearby. Existing Pylons and telephone poles to be re-routed trough this duct a.s.a.p. as part of the project. Too many of these eyesores already existing on that route."
The person correspondingly rates my proposal only 2/10 and 3/10 for necessity and alignment respectively.

Marydell thinks a new-build motorway should be provided instead of any dual:
"motor way from Bunclody to Tallaght, via Tullow, Baltinglass and Blessington."
Such a motorway would be nearly 90 km long and would be a major engineering feat, not to mention the cost - as it would pass over mountainous terrain.

Evidently set on her own scheme, she rates mine 1/10 on both counts.

Cian hates this! He rates it 1/10 and its alignment 0/10 and reckons the standard should be lower: "Left as it is". He continues:
"Unnecessary, the Irish Transport Industry will waste their money on a useless 2+2."

Someone rates it 10/10 and its alignment 5/10 and reckons the standard should be higher: "Should be motorway".

BoyInGreen rates this 3/10 and the alignment 4/10 and reckons the standard should be lower: "Type 2 Single Carriageway".
"I think that such a scheme should also include a bypass of Blessington to the northwest. That said, I'm not sure that this is a priority at the minute and that minor online improvements to the existing N81 might be more feasible in the short term."
There is a separate scheme already being considered by the government to bypass Blessington which isn't shown on the map below so this scheme doesn't need to include that. As for single carriageway, that would not have enough capacity to handle the level of traffic this would attract.

N81 Resident cannot be described as a fan - they rate this 1/10, the alignment 2/10 and reckon the standard should be lower: "Upgraded single carriageway with passing lanes in appropriate places".
"The original upgrade to N81 was based on a 2004 survey before the N7 was upgraded to 3 lane carriageway. Today those who sought to avoid the Naas dual c'way and NewlandsX have reverted to the N7 and there is no necessity in the foreseeable future for a dualway N81. To do so now would be an immoral waste of money."

Someone else rates this 5/10 and its alignment 7/10.
"How about a link road either from M9 junction 3 to N81 between Baltinglass and Hollywood or M7 junction 5 to N81 south of Saggart/near Tallaght?"

David Hamilton rates this 5/10 and its alignment 5/10 but reckons the standard should be motorway:
"There are a number of issues related to attempting to use the N81 prior to its upgrade to a motorway:
1. Statistically the N81 is one of the most dangerous roads in the country
2. West Wicklow is a major supplier of stone and sand to the Dublin construction sector, hence the N81 has a well above average proportion of heavy goods vehicles, combine this with the limited availability of safe passing places on the road gives a lethal combination for overtaking.
3. Because of the scenic area served by the N81 the road has one of the highest proportions of recreational traffic especially bikes and motorbikes in the country.
4. High number of residential units directly accessing the road.
5. I am an N81 road user and to access Dublin, instead of driving through Tallaght I divert via City West business campus and use the quicker option of the N7."
Thanks for the detailed response, David.

"Anonymous" doesn't like this - 5.5/10 and the alignment 2/10 - but not because they don't want it to be built. It's because they want something even bigger:
"I would like if the N81 to Tallaght should be upgraded to motorway standard dual carriageway".

John is taking this very personally (please note: it's just an idea and there is no plan to build a road like this). He rates it 1/10 and thinks we should "leave it as it is":
"This is craziness. I have a conflict here though. The proposed route on the map goes directly through he middle of our farm and house and yard. Even if it didn't, as someone who has been on both the n7 and n81 a lot, once you have got to tallaght on the n81 during rush hour you are often in worse traffic than you are n7 red cow. In other words in my view for going into Dublin it will make no difference as the road from tallaght into Dublin is at capacity already. I can understand it slightly more for people leaving Dublin, especially as it was muted that you would upgrade the bit of the m7 to m9. However in saying that I would have thought a better route would be from Hollywood cross to kilcullen/m9 which would be shorter and attract all the poeple who want to go onto the m9 and not send them via the m7 and create a bottle neck bringing everyone together who wants to go south and West. Stupid."
I must say that this is an interesting concept. It's quite different from what's proposed here though. It's more of a bypass of the southern half of the N81, while my idea is an alternative route into Dublin alongside the M7.

Steve rates this 8/10 and the alignment 6/10.

Someone else rates it 10 and the alignment 5. They think the spec should be higher though:
"I believe it should go at least until baltinglass in terms of the distance considering the amount of road users that travel that road each day. Blessington itself is impassable during rush hours. I think this is long over due and needs action now and not in 10 years!!! This should have happened 10 years ago!"
Peter rates this very poorly (1/10) and thinks it should be motorway status:
"The N81 has 7 times the average number of head on collisions already, plus as stated is a major route for heavy trucks using local quarries. These trucks run into the hundreds daily, spilling sand and pebbles regularly making the existing N81 unfit for purpose. Either leave the N81 as is and build a new dual carriageway in its place allowing the trucks use the N81 only, or upgrade the N81 to motorway status."
Mick Ward rates this 10 and has this to say:
"This should improve the commute from Baltinglass to Dublin and will also bring additional business to this area. Towns such as Blessington and Baltinglass could grow as commuter towns of Dublin."
A person rates this 10/10 and the alignment 8:
"This is needed sooner rather than later."
N81 user rates this 2/10 and thinks it should be lower spec:
"None, Upgrade the N81, people on the N81 a busy bad road needs upgrading dual the whole N81, people who start on the N7 stay on the N7, People who start on the N81 stay on the N81. The N81 is a busy bad road, dual it or put dual sections into it passing points and eliminate crappy bad bends..."

MAP OF N81 :