Westport Courthouse traffic lights chaos

De Facto

DIFFERENCE OF OPINION? Work has begun on putting back traffic lights at the junction outside Westport Courthouse but many will argue traffic has moved better in the town without lights at the junction on the Castlebar Road.

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

For the past number of weeks driving from my home in Sheeaune into town has been a pleasure. The five kilometre trip takes about five minutes. Outside the Courthouse a sign states that the traffic lights are not working. That may be so but the traffic is working! There are no hold-ups, even on the busy Friday evenings as visitors arrive.
My five-minute journey to town often took me twenty minutes when the lights ‘worked’! Now we have ample proof that the lights are not needed, in plain language. Much to my (and many other people’s) consternation it has just been announced that new lights are being installed. It seems that somewhere along the various departments that make traffic management decisions there is a little office with the casting vote. It’s called ‘Let’s Fix What’s Not Broken!’
How could anyone in their right minds think that installing more traffic lights will be effective? Some complain that not having lights at the Courthouse has given rise to other problems. Fine, deal with them in a way that will resolve them for everybody.
One issue is a back-up of traffic from the Newport Road traffic lights along the North Mall. This also affects town bound traffic from Castlebar Street and exiting traffic from the Post Office North Mall. The first thing that should have happened when this occurred is that the Newport Road lights should also have been turned off.
We had ample time and a perfect opportunity to do this. That way the effects on traffic could have been monitored in a sensible (and cost effective) manner. We might actually have seen traffic flowing much freer in the Newport Road vicinity also, but alas, the powers that be sat on that one.
Another simple solution would be to create a second lane on the Castlebar Street town bound lane, from opposite Danny’s Bar to the middle bridge. That would have allowed town traffic to continue from Castlebar Street up Bridge Street unhindered. Traffic exiting the Post Office North Mall could also have access to Castlebar Street, with the help of the yellow box.
If traffic from the Newport Road were to still back up to Castlebar Street then put a Garda on point duty at the busy times. It would need one hour in the morning and less than an hour around 3.30pm when schools close.

Pedestrian lights?
Some say that it was difficult for people, especially school children, to cross the road at the Courthouse; why not put pedestrian lights on the bottom of the Distillery Road? There is already a pedestrian crossing at the top end of the Distillery Road. A pedestrian crossing/lollipop person could also be installed in the Courthouse/Castlebar Road vicinity.
Years ago at council meetings we were all told that Westport could not have pedestrian crossings because the (then) NRA would not permit any pedestrian crossings on national primary roads like the N5. Strange how quickly that was ignored when money for the Greenway required a pedestrian crossing near the Allergan turn-off.
Some people claim that the Gardaí insisted that the Courthouse lights be turned back on. Point duty is always an option for Gardaí. Again, if there is a problem at peak times, deal with the problem. There is no point in traffic managers creating bigger problems and forcing people into traffic jams. How do environment and fuel prices! With the lights gone, drivers show extreme courtesy to Distillery Road traffic by letting people out at appropriate intervals. Common sense can and does actually prevail!
In some countries, rather than install traffic lights, stop signs are erected on each road. It means in effect that every driver must stop at the respective sign, then each takes his/her turn to continue. If there ever was a problem at the Castlebar Street/Distillery Road junction that could be a solution.  
Why spend big money on new traffic lights with the new N5 due to open next year? Why condemn motorists to long queues again? We have to move away from the ‘let’s fix what’s not broken’ traffic management system. Best practice with taxpayers’ money ensures all parties’ concerns are properly heard. It’s called common sense.