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The sticky issue of summer traffic jams

De Facto

Liamy MacNally

It’s August – the silly season. Everything and everyone are fair game. The media is in ‘festive mood.’ Stories will get printed that would not normally pass the editor’s tray.
Politicians know this and many avail of the ‘service.’ It is also the time for discussing Westport traffic congestion - the middle of August! What can be done about it in the height of the tourist season is one of life’s great mysteries! August is not the month to have traffic on the agenda, October or February are more preferable.
Over the years we had the merry-go-round of consultants, advisors and experts. All were well paid for their tasks. They produced reports, recommendations and endorsements, most of which are gathering dust on council shelves.
Westport traffic has been discussed ad nauseam for years. My father, a Westport UDC independent councillor in the early 1960s, had it on the agenda way back then. One-way systems and various traffic layouts have been tried and tested since then. Some were adopted while others were rejected. The only constant is the problem!  
In last week’s edition of this paper, the Managing Editor, Neill O’Neill, wrote at length about the traffic issues. His last sentence read, “Perhaps there is no answer!” Perhaps he is right.

Moving on
We are all too aware of the seriousness of the problem, the frustration it causes and the fact that it will only get worse. The issue usually gets an annual outing around this time but it needs to be taken more seriously.
We have committed councillors, council staff, business people, local people and regular visitors who, together, can set a goal of easing the traffic flow. Westport is renowned as a town where people pull together, especially when there is an issue that needs to be resolved. Traffic is now a serious headache.
The welcome opening of the new school on the Newport Road next February will have a downside – traffic. We have all talked for so long about seeking traffic solutions yet very little change has occurred since the issue became as serious as it is. We need to move on from the talk. That would be smart travel.
The ‘local knowledge turns’ like the right over the middle bridge at O’Donnell’s on the North Mall and the right at the Clock from Bridge Street to Shop Street are necessary. Imagine not having the turn at O’Donnell’s! That would force all Newport Road traffic to town over Doris Bridge and onto South Mall, already congested from the James Street feed. Adequate road markings are required for these turns.  
One traffic issue that needs immediate attention is the proximity of parking to the courtesy crossings, especially at Lower Castlebar Street, North Mall outside the Mall Boutique, bottom of James Street, Fairgreen and Mill Street. It can be dangerous when (legitimately) parked cars block the views of pedestrians and drivers. Extending the no-parking area for another metre or so on one side of the crossing would greatly enhance safety for all concerned.  

Bridge Street is the nightmare for double-parked delivery vans. Why not create more loading bays on this street? Shop Street is very much less affected with James Street seldom being a double-parking victim. (It does succumb to the awkward bus turn into and out of the riverside car park on the street!)
Would the facilitating of delivery vans with a loading bay or two in the Mill Street/Bridge Street car park be of benefit to Bridge Street businesses? Non-commercial traffic still has the use of James Street/Bridge Street car park, Mill Street/High Street car park and the James Street/Leisure Centre car park, along with ample car parking on streets throughout the town.        
Then there are the lights. TURN THEM OFF! See how the traffic would flow without them. It might improve! What about mini-roundabouts at the Castlecourt Hotel junction and Newport Road/James Street?
You could make the Distillery Road one-way, taking ALL the incoming Castlebar Road traffic. It would disperse (a little) at the Centra/Hasting’s Garage roundabout, up Altamont Street, across Mill Street and down the Fairgreen to the North Mall. Castlebar Street could become one-way from the Mall to the Castlecourt. Perhaps it’s just the silly season!