I AM not sure if, in the words of the well-covered song, 1991 was a very good year.

A quick trip through the history books suggests it was one of momentous change, for the better and for the worse.

While the Soviet Union disintegrated remarkably peacefully, the former Yugoslavia was in the throes of a somewhat more bloody, more traumatic break-up.

On the subject of the former, in August that year among a slew of such declarations, Ukraine formally announced its independence from the Soviet Union. Twenty-three years later, it is engaged in a battle for its very existence with Russia, which to the outside world at least appears to be reverting to a more Soviet-like state of mind.

In 1991, the First Gulf War, in response to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, triggered upheavals in that part of the Middle East and beyond that continue to this day.

Again in August that year, perhaps the most momentous development in technology in the 20th Century was announced - the World Wide Web project. Out of that, the world's first website - info.cern.ch - was set up, and a global lifestyle, social and economic revolution began.

That year too, one Bill Clinton announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America.

South African novelist Nadine Gordimer, who died just a few weeks ago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Starbucks, at the time largely confined to the north west of America, opened its first coffee shop in California, beginning its march toward becoming a global brand.

And, pop fans, the inexplicably popular Ed Sheeran breathed his first in 1991, thankfully still the better part of two decades away from polluting the aural environment of countless music lovers the world over.

Yes, the world was a very different place in 1991, albeit there were plenty of things going on back then that continue to resonate, and to shape our lives in 2014.

And here's another.

In May of 1991 - while the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were being torn apart, and in the immediate aftermath of the First Gulf War; while incredibly brainy computer geeks were finalising plans for the World Wide Web project; while the citizens of California were coo-ing over their skinny lattes in the sleek interior of the state's new Starbucks; and while Mrs Sheeran proudly changed little Ed's nappy, oblivious of the future musical carnage he would unleash - plans for an M4 Relief Road were announced by the Welsh Office.

Welsh secretary David Hunt announced that a new motorway would be built around Newport, between Magor and Castleton, and the following month Gwent county council declared that work on the road was expected to begin in 2000, earlier(!) than scheduled.

Oh, the optimism! The naivety! The misplaced faith in the turning of the wheels of progress!

By the following year, the Welsh Office was being urged to speed up the planning and funding of the new motorway, which was set to pass through the "environmentally sensitive" Gwent Levels.

In summer 1993, detailed plans for the road were unveiled, along with the cost - £300 million. Later that year Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke announced that the scheme would be paid for by the public sector but that it would be a toll road.

But opposition was mobilising, and in early 1994 the Campaign Against the Levels Motorways (CALM), an alliance of organisations opposing the project, was formed.

Since then of course, the project has been on and off more times than the relationship between Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki, and has become the subject of rancorous claim and counter-claim about cost, environmental impact, and perceived economic benefits.

Deadlines for the start of reviews, investigations, public inquiries, the beginning of the work have been set and lapsed.

The project has become colour-coded, as the idea of improving the road network around Newport and into and out of South Wales has been investigated and debated.

We have had black routes, blue routes, red routes. Somewhere in some highway designers' portfolio there may be a yet-to-be-unveiled turquoise-with-burnt-sienna-spots route, involving a 15-mile long overpass carried by concrete columns driven straight through the heart of the city.

The project has been postponed, revived, redesigned, shelved, ditched, revived again, delayed once more.

Supporters and opponents have taken to the World Wide Web that was not even up and running when the M4 Relief Road was first mooted, to promote it, or to denigrate it and each other.

Doubtless too, they have sat in certain branches of a certain now global coffee shop chain and plotted and planned their next steps over a caramel macchiato.

And it is a fair bet that during these sessions, their ears have been assailed by the songs of an all-grown-up but sadly none-too-dulcet Ed Sheeran, piped from a discreetly placed speaker.

Ah, progress, progress...

And meanwhile the M4 gets ever busier, while the prospect of doing anything about it - be it relief road, 15-mile long overpass, or a colour-coded route of popular choice - seems further away than ever.

Further even, than 1991.