Government funding to be sought for latest Church Street rejuvenation plans

Plans to implement a controversial new one-way system in Athlone which were leaked to the media last week have been shelved after being met with a backlash from local residents and members of the Athlone business community. 

The council has instead decided to revisit plans drawn up in 2008 as part of the Environmental Development Scheme. Councillors at Monday’s Municipal District Meeting discussed plans to apply for funding for the development of Church Street, the imposition of a one-way traffic system, and the construction of a riverside boardwalk. 

The BMW Regional Assembly has called for proposals from gateway towns in the region for urban centre improvements by October 30. The extent of funding available is €1.5million, a figure that can be augmented by funding from other sources such as the Department of Transport, Fáilte Ireland, or Waterway’s Ireland.

The plans to develop Church Street would be complemented by a boardwalk along the river from the Radisson Blu Hotel to Wolfe Tone Terrace at a cost of €700,000. It is believed that the boardwalk would represent a valuable tourist facility and would draw visitors down to a most attractive location in the town.

Director of services Barry Kehoe said the enhancement of the town centre has been a long-term ambition of the council: “You will recall that detailed plans for the environmental enhancement of the street were drawn up some eight years ago.

“You will also be aware that this scheme could not proceed at the time as it was the opinion of the council that a one-way traffic system was having a detrimental impact on business in the town centre. However, in the meantime, the economy has recovered somewhat and is continuing to do so. Furthermore, Athlone is emerging as a viable tourist town, due in no small part to the efforts of the council over many years.

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“However, it is universally acknowledged that the condition of the main thoroughfare is poor and reflects badly on Athlone. It is congested with traffic, the footpaths are substandard and uncomfortable, particularly for people with buggies and the disabled. The condition of the street is having an impact on the vitality and viability of Church Street and the town at large.”

Mr Kehoe said it is proposed that the environmental scheme suggested in 2008 be implemented from Custume Place to Mardyke Street at the junction with Griffith Street. This would address the deficiencies over the most substandard part of the street and would deal with the bottleneck that exists at the premises of The Office Centre. Kehoe added that the improvements would create an inviting link between the River Shannon area and the Civic Square up to Mardyke Street.

“The implementation of this scheme will necessitate the imposition of a one-way traffic system over Church Street from Griffith Street to Custume Place,” Mr Kehoe said. The system would not be implemented until works are about to commence, which is likely to be in the spring or summer of 2016.   

Mr Kehoe suggested that detailed assessments be carried out to ascertain the best traffic arrangements to mitigate the traffic impact of the imposition of a one-way system on Church Street. He also suggested that local businesses and residents be consulted, and a detailed design for the pedestrian facilities at The Strand, in consultation with Waterways Ireland and local residents, be prepared. 

He called on the council to continue to engage with CIE and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to progress the Railway Field Road, with a view to having certainty on the delivery of this road by spring, 2016. 

A detailed report concerning the one-way system on Church Street will be presented to councillors in the near future.

“However, it is universally acknowledged that the condition of the main thoroughfare is poor and reflects badly on Athlone. It is congested with traffic, the footpaths are substandard and uncomfortable, particularly for people with buggies and the disabled. The condition of the street is having an impact on the vitality and viability of Church Street and the town at large.”

Mr Kehoe said it is proposed that the environmental scheme suggested in 2008 be implemented from Custume Place to Mardyke Street at the junction with Griffith Street. This would address the deficiencies over the most substandard part of the street and would deal with the bottleneck that exists at the premises of The Office Centre. Kehoe added that the improvements would create an inviting link between the River Shannon area and the Civic Square up to Mardyke Street.

“The implementation of this scheme will necessitate the imposition of a one-way traffic system over Church Street from Griffith Street to Custume Place,” Mr Kehoe said. The system would not be implemented until works are about to commence, which is likely to be in the spring or summer of 2016.   

Mr Kehoe suggested that detailed assessments be carried out to ascertain the best traffic arrangements to mitigate the traffic impact of the imposition of a one-way system on Church Street. He also suggested that local businesses and residents be consulted, and a detailed design for the pedestrian facilities at The Strand, in consultation with Waterways Ireland and local residents, be prepared. 

He called on the council to continue to engage with CIE and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to progress the Railway Field Road, with a view to having certainty on the delivery of this road by spring, 2016. 

A detailed report concerning the one-way system on Church Street will be presented to councillors in the near future.

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