IT’S a never-ending story that just keeps going around and around.
The need for three roundabouts on the Mountmellick Road in Portlaoise has come up time and again over the past 20 years at local authority meetings, only for it to be kicked down the road each time.
And so it was that the issue popped up again at the October meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District, this time by cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley.
She asked for an updated report on the council’s efforts in securing funding to install the roundabouts at the junctions of Harpur’s Lane, New Park and the Ballyfin Road.
She also wants the contractor who installed a section of a footpath from Mill Lane to New Row on the Mountmellick Road to be called back and to “reinstate the footpath properly”.
On the footpath issue, the council’s acting senior executive engineer Farhan Nasiem said that the work will be carried out next week. The meeting was told that the contractor was covering the cost of the reinstatement work.
Regarding the roundabouts, Mr Nasiem said: “The road section is in the process of carrying out a junction capacity analysis report. This will identify the engineering solutions for these locations.
“Design details will then be carried out and a funding application will be submitted to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).”
“The Mountmellick Road is one of the busiest roads in Portlaoise,” said Cllr Dwane Stanley. “There’s over 800 children attending the Knockmay School, 300 houses in the Knockmay housing estate, Dunnes Stores car park, New Park housing estate as well as Lakeglen, O’Moore Place and other estates right up along that road as far as Fairgreen. The junction from Dunnes Stores has the highest traffic accident count in the town.”
Director of services Simon Walton said that when the junction analysis is complete, it will then be known what type of traffic-control measures will be needed for the road. He said it might not necessarily be roundabouts. He said that the analysis will study pedestrian, cycle and vehicle movement, a road traffic accident history of the area and other issues along the road.
He said it is hoped the results of that analysis will be completed by February and then submitted for funding to TII.
“I hope this doesn’t go down the road of putting traffic lights along that road,” warned cllr Dwane Stanley. “There’ll be major back-ups as far as Fairgreen if that happens. My opinion is, and I’m no engineering expert, that traffic lights won’t work along that road. I’m hoping that there’ll be three roundabouts along that road.”
“I’m not saying traffic lights said Mr Walton. That’s why we’re having the analysis undertaken: to determine what traffic initiatives are needed.
“I have no bother with people calling Portlaoise the town of the roundabouts, but traffic has to be kept moving, and that won’t happen with traffic lights.”
Cllr Willie Aird said: “This (three roundabouts discussion) has been going on now for nearly 20 years. They just have to be done.”
Cllr Thomasina Connell asked could the council discuss the provision of a roundabout at New Park with Dunnes Stores, who have plans to develop in that area.
On the issue of the reinstatement of the footpath, cllr Aird had this to say: “It’s all well and good that the footpath is being reinstated, but there’ll be more hold-ups and traffic delays along the road while it’s being done. I think the work should be done at night time.”