EXPERTS LEADING the public inquiry into the proposed Dublin Port road tunnel have retired to consider the evidence.
The inspectors, retired civil engineer Tony O'Connel and air quality expert Dr Vincent O'Malley, heard the last evidence presented on Tuesday at the 21 day public inquiry - Ireland's longest ever.
They are now expected to take up to two months before submitting a recommendation to the Irish Minister for the Environment & Local Government, Noel Dempsey.
Dempsey will take around four months to decide whether to go ahead with the £156M, 4.5km twin bore road tunnel to link the busy Dublin port with the country's motorway network.
The Dublin Corporation maintains the road is essential for the national economy and to relieve congestion in the capital.
But expert evidence submitted by local residents opposed to the scheme suggests it has not been costed properly and is unsafe.
Opponents say the scheme has been designed and costed assuming the New Austrian Tunnelling Method would be used in construction. They argue that this method of construction is unsafe.
This view was backed by evidence from Trinity College Dublin geologist Professor Adrian Philips.
He told the inquiry that the tunnels went through ground that was likely to be more fractured than had so far been discovered by the Corporation's site investigation.
However, this evidence was contradicted by that of Irmina Porschle, a geologist with Austrian tunnelling consultant Geoconsult, which is acting as consultant to the Corporation alongside Ove Arup.
Porschle told the inquiry that in all but two zones the rock in the tunnel corridor was undifferentiated.
If the project is given the go-ahead the Dublin Corporation expects the project to go to site in spring 2000. Five of the ten pre-qualified consortia will be asked to submit tenders in October.