Stationary traffic plan | Westmeath Examiner

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Traffic delays persist in Mullingar despite the introduction of smart lighting.

A new study to be carried out in an attempt to resolve Mullingar’s longstanding traffic problems is a ‘total waste of money’.

That’s according to Cllr Ken Glynn, who says traffic congestion issues in the center of town are frustrating for local motorists.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, Cllr Glynn said he did not believe outside consultants were needed to solve the traffic problems, which many believe have been exacerbated by the introduction of a system of smart traffic lights in January 2020 as part of the 3 million euro improvement of the city centre.

Cllr Glynn says consultants advised county councilors that smart lights would improve traffic flow in the town centre, but the opposite has happened.

“I think so [hiring outside consultants] is a waste of money. We waste more money after more money.

“It was sold to councilors at the time [of the town enhancement scheme]. We went through a long process back then.

“We talked to consultants and were basically told it was the best thing to do, and of course we listened to the experts. We expressed our concerns, but were told that would be the best solution. We listened to the experts and now we’re in a situation where we’re back how many years later and it’s still not working, still causing problems and now we want to spend more money on more consultants.

“I don’t buy into it. I said it when it was announced and my opinion won’t change.

“We have fantastic engineers on our staff who are more than qualified to find the pinch points and come up with solutions.

“We’ve been highlighting and highlighting it and at this point [the responses] are lip service.

“Dilatory tactic”

“I think another study and more consultants won’t help. It’s another stalling tactic. Whether it’s roundabouts or ramps, you just have to sort it out. People want to see ‘stock.

Cllr Glynn said traffic congestion concerns have led many to believe the lights are sequenced to discourage motorists from bringing their cars into the center of town.

“If we don’t have cars in town, how are people supposed to get around? How are people supposed to support local businesses?

“People come from all over the county to shop at Mullingar. How could you have a situation where you can’t have cars in the city center? There is no public bus service. We are lucky to have an excellent taxi service. If people have cars, they have the right to drive their car into town and go about their business. It is reality.

“I do not subscribe to the opinion that the city center should be cleaned of motor vehicles – it is far from necessary.

“What’s needed is for the board to start listening to people. As a representative of the public, I assert the opinions that have been expressed to me, which is why I was elected.

Traffic jams are a regular occurrence in the center of Mullingar.

At last Monday’s meeting, 12 September, of Mullingar Kinnegad Municipal District (MKMD), councilors were told that a consultant is being commissioned ‘to develop a regional transport plan for the town of Mullingar’ and that the study “will examine any transport problems”. Cllr Glynn, who tabled a motion calling on MKMD to bring forward proposals to reduce traffic congestion in the city center and, in particular at the McDonald’s junction, greeted with skepticism the news of another study.

The Fianna Fáil man was one of many councilors who asked if the sequence of lights at the McDonald’s junction and other ‘pinch points’ in the city center could be changed to improve rush hour traffic .

“We know the pinch points. We don’t need consultants or anyone else to come and tell us what pinch points or bad times of day we’re having trouble with.

“Is it possible to modify the lights to have longer journeys at peak times – these are supposed to be smart lights.

“If we could do something with the lights at these peak times, maybe it would shut people like me up and we could keep waiting for that plan. As it stands, it’s lip service. as far as I’m concerned. I want action,” he said.

Cllr Aoife Davitt said the traffic light sequence at the McDonald’s junction needs to be increased to allow more cars to pass.

“These lights [at Church Avenue and Castle Street] give you a millisecond, almost, to exit a crossroads. It is not fair.”

Cllr Davitt also said sensors that communicate with smart traffic lights need to be marked more clearly so motorists know where to properly position their cars to activate sequencing.

She also said something needed to be done to address the growing number of motorists making U-turns on city roads.

“Between delivery drivers and people frustrated with traffic, there will be a serious incident where someone gets run over by someone making a U-turn.”

Cllr Emily Wallace said congestion issues around the McDonald’s junction have worsened in recent months. “I can travel around Dublin much quicker and easier than around Mullingar in some places.”

Cllr Mick Dollard said a study carried out before the £3million town improvement works several years ago found that one in four cars passing through Mullingar do not stop in the town. He believes that more signs should be erected for motorists who may not be “aware” of the route of the road.

“Let people know they don’t have to go to Mullingar,” he said.

Mayor Cllr Hazel Smyth said while she agrees something needs to be done to ease traffic congestion in the city, the bike rental scheme could be expanded to include e-bikes and cargo bikes.

She also said it was important that when developing the new transport plan, improved safety measures for cyclists were included.

“I hear similar stories of cyclists around town feeling unsafe at all. I hope the wider plan will take into consideration the needs of those who wish to consider alternatives [to cars] as well as pedestrians. Hopefully all of this can help ease the congestion issues we are seeing in the city.”

Cllr Denis Leonard said the ring roads around town need to be used more. He also said the Mullingar area bus service must be rolled out “as soon as possible”.

“Rather than arguing over the route and where it’s going until we’re nauseous, we have to sort it out and do it,” he said.

Services manager David Jones said the lights at all junctions are interconnected, meaning changing the sequence at one could impact the others.

“Hence why the Mullingar transport study will look at everything in its totality and allow for changes in this strategic and joint approach, he told advisers.

Mr Jones also said that the appointment of the consultant to carry out the study took longer than expected as it had to be re-tendered as there was initially no response from interested parties.

“Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Hopefully the remnants of Covid are now being washed through the system and we’re now back to what’s considered the new normal in terms of volumes of traffic in the city and therefore the study can capture accurate real-life data…”

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