Many Liffey bridges are steeped in history with echoes of rebellion and revolution abounding. The West-Link has a history fraught with a more modern conflict - the ubiquitous urban terror of the traffic jam. For the West-Link was home to the worst traffic jams in Ireland.
Construction began in 1987 and the bridge, comprising two lanes in each direction, opened in March 1990 as part of the 12.2 km Western Parkway Motorway. The West-Link Toll Bridge Company, a fully owned subsidiary of National Toll Roads (NTR), constructed 3.2km of that motorway, linking the N3 and the N4 and including the bridge. The remainder was funded by the state. At that time the economic nirvana of the Celtic Tiger was some years off though the vital signs of the economy were improving, The Irish Pound was the currency of the day and motorists paid a V.A.T free toll of 60 pence, equivalent to 76 cent today. From June 1990 motorists could pay with the newly minted IR£1 coin.
Initially traffic volumes failed to reach expectations and tolls rose modestly. From the late 1990s the expansion of Dublin, the incremental completion of the M50, the growth in car ownership and the increasing numbers in employment meant the bridge functioned not just as planned - to divert provincial traffic from Dublin city centre - but as a connector route for Dublin suburban traffic. A second bridge was demanded and opened in September 2003. Lane numbers increased to three in each direction with the newer bridge servicing southbound traffic and the older bridge north. Captive traffic woes were the the talk of phone-in radio shows and filled many newspaper column inches. Disgruntled motorists were further incensed by steeper toll price increases including the addition of V.A.T. in 2001, the 27% nominative hike at the Euro changeover and the rise to fund the new bridge.
At midnight, August 29th 2008, NTR ceased to operate the bridge following a deal struck with the National Roads Authority, a state body. Revenues, which had partially accrued to the state through rates, licence fees, V.A.T. and revenue sharing, now wholly accrue to the state. For the beleaguered motorist, the electronic barrier free toll system finally brought welcome relief from those legendary traffic jams.