Engineer who oversaw construction of Dublin Port Tunnel

Tim Brick, who has died suddenly aged 70, was the engineer responsible for completing the Dublin Port Tunnel, taking thousands of large truck journeys a day off Dublin’s streets.
Brick oversaw construction of a 4.5km twin-bore road tunnel linking the country’s main port of entry for goods with the M50 ring road and the national motorway network, and eliminating what had been a continuous stream of trucks along the capital’s quays.
Born in Cork, Tim was the third child of Thady Brick, an Army officer, and his wife Elizabeth Field. He attended the Jesuit-run Crescent College in Limerick and University College Cork where he studied engineering. In third year he met arts student Maeve O’Driscoll, and they married in 1967.
With major engineering projects opening up in Africa and the Middle East, the couple spent two years in Zambia and six in Nigeria. A spell in Saudi Arabia followed, with Brick commuting from the family home in Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Brick was excited by the challenge of working on the Libyan “great man-made river” project to bring water to the Sahara through a network of pipes from an ice-age aquifer and supply water to the cities of Tripoli, Benghazi and Sirte. But when the call came, he was back in Ireland working for Dublin Corporation, which gave its recent recruit two years’ leave.

When he returned to Dublin, he worked on humanising city life, installing bus and cycle lanes and pedestrian plazas. He relished being on the street, “arguing the toss” with interest groups. This made him an ideal choice to take over running the port tunnel project when his predecessor Sea?n Wynne died unexpectedly in 2002. Equally, Brick’s wide-ranging overseas experience reassured Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald that the man who had been deputy city engineer since 1998 was up to the challenge.
He needed to be. The job was about more than engineering and co-ordinating a large international workforce. The contract had been awarded to a Japanese-British-Irish consortium which, though technically highly competent, had limited sensitivity to local conditions, and so it fell to the council to bring together all the elements when work began in 2001.
The project was complex, time-consuming, expensive and invisible. Some 5,000 people would be involved, from many countries and counties.

Feats of engineering
Considerable feats of engineering were happening behind hoardings, but all the public knew about was traffic disruption and road closures. It mattered little that a hole the size of St Patrick’s Cathedral was excavated in Fairview Park. Hundreds of people living from Marino to Whitehall heard and felt the massive tunnel boring machines below their homes, and feared for their safety.
In mid-project, there was a vocal campaign to increase the height of the tunnel to accommodate larger trucks, despite its conforming to EU standard dimensions. Brick was not for turning, and could count on the support of powerful politicians including Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and Richard Bruton, both locally elected.

As local concerns over tunnelling escalated, a campaign group circulated Brick’s home phone number, and abusive calls were received day and night.
A journalist who asked about a leak – water is inevitable during tunnelling – got short shrift. “There’s no one down here wearing armbands anyway,” he growled.
Brick had barely taken his seat at the 2005 All-Ireland hurling final when his mobile phone rang. The press office was inundated with inquiries about the “emergency meeting about the tunnel”. What meeting? Brick had parked his car outside his office in East Wall Road en route to Croke Park.
Brick pressed on, and the first trucks passed through the tunnel in December 2006, and the final cost was €750 million.

Engineering academy
Brick later worked on the preparations for Metro North and the Dart Underground but both projects stalled. He regretted that the skills and experience of the core group that built the tunnel were allowed to disperse.
After retiring from the city council, Brick enjoyed working part-time as director of the Irish Academy of Engineering, a forum in which senior engineers consider long-term aspects of the discipline, freed from daily pressures.
Timothy William Brick known to his family as Teddy, is survived by his widow Maeve, their children Lianne and Gavin, and his sisters Olive Boland, Ursula Walsh and Rita Brick.

(Irish Times 16th July 2016)