The Snarl of Westport’s Traffic Crawl

De Facto
The snarl of Westport’s ongoing traffic crawl

De Facto
Liamy Mac Nally

IS there anyone in Westport Town Council who can solve the traffic problem in the town?  It is now the town’s biggest problem, for locals and visitors.  What a welcome to Westport – a tailback out to Sheeaune!  Why?  Because the traffic lights at the junction of Castlebar Street and the Distillery Road are out of time.  Every time those traffic lights are switched off the traffic flows.  It is done on Reek Sunday and other busy times and the traffic always flows freely.  Delaying discussions until the Smarter Travel Award announcement is made does not make any sense.  We are fooling no one but ourselves.
Some years ago the idea of a mini-roundabout at the Castlebar Street/Distillery Road junction was laughed out of the council chamber and the traffic lights proposal won out.  It is beyond time to revisit that decision.
With the new Industrial Park near Allergan it is also time to examine the feasibility of continuing that road to the Newport Road.  Sure we all know that there are plans but what we need now is the gumption, energy and will to make it happen.  Ring-roads and bypasses were on the agenda of Westport Town Council in the 1960s and since.  Nothing has happened.
Last Thursday after a couple to calls to the Westport Garda Station the traffic lights at the Castlebar Street/Distillery Road junction were switched off for a few hours and the traffic flowed.  (There are also some claims that if the Gardaí insist on the lights being turned off to aid traffic flow then they are obliged to go on traffic duty.  Everyone knows they work better if switched off.  There is no need for a Garda to be on duty.)  Last Thursday the traffic lights were back on by 5.30pm and the build-up started immediately out the Castlebar Road as far as the Corrib station.  Thursday morning it took one woman who lives on the Lodge Road 25 minutes to get to town.  Thursday is not an exceptional day.  This happens regularly.  Sure this is madness!  Sometimes you could change your tyre and not lose your place in the traffic jam!
People are wound up enough with the way the country is going that they do not need extra hassle.  There is no excuse for bad traffic management.  Councils after councils have discussed it and tried various changes with limited success but what we have now is a real problem.  Ask anyone from the town or visiting here and they say that traffic is a serious problem. 
It s not that the town cannot cope with the number of vehicles, it can.  The problem is to keep the traffic moving rather than allow it to build up along the Castlebar Road.  The Newport Road is another problem, especially now that the schools are back.  Westport’s traffic is the elephant in the room yet there is talk, energy and money spent on everything else.  Even the Quay Hill joins in the revelry of ‘car trains,’ especially when the flow is blocked at the bottom of James Street.
There is adequate parking, so much so that some of it can be used at the peak of the season for carnivals.  The parking is well spaced out around the town.  There are some problem areas where people park indiscriminately in front of people’s houses like Hillside, John’s Row, St Mary’s Crescent, to name a few.  These can be fairly easily rectified with a little thought.  The one-way system on Hillside and John’s Row is working well and aids the flow of traffic even it sends a stream out the Carrowbawn Road towards the Leenane Road.  The Traffic Wardens do a great job in ensuring that the traffic keeps flowing through the core of the town.  It is just that these strengths need to be replicated in the problem areas.  What is the point is sitting in traffic that is so slow that when you see pedestrians walk by you think they are in a rush!
How can we convince those in power to make the required adjustment to make life in our lovely town more bearable?  Westport has many great gifts.  These have been nurtured and augmented by the foresight of successive council officials and councillors.  Many of us remember the night it was mentioned at a council meeting that Westport should aim to win the National Tidy Towns Award.  There were gasps of astonishment!  A united front from councillors, businesses, residents, council officials and staff worked miracles.
Nothing is impossible when there is goodwill and energy for change.  So what if it takes a few attempts to get the traffic right!  The goodwill is in the trying and people will always respond to goodwill.  It is time for another miracle!