Controversy over the Galway City Outer Bypass continues to rumble on but long term plans for the Seamus Quirke Road, raised at Monday’s city council meeting, show there are more positive ways of tackling the city’s traffic congestion.
This is the view of Labour councillor Niall McNelis who joined with his Labour colleagues in supporting a motion calling on the Galway City Council to abandon the Galway City Outer Bypass scheme and instead direct remaining funds into rail, bus, and cycling infrastructure.
Cllr Colette Connolly motion read that in view of “current scientific thinking” and evidence in relation to the ineffectiveness and inappropriateness of large-scale road-building as a solution to transportation issues, City Hall should withdraw “the remainder of the proposed Galway City Outer Bypass scheme”.
The motion proposed that with the support of the departments of transport and the environment, the re-directed funding should instead go to light rail, high-quality bus, rapid transit, and new cycling and walking routes.
The bypass has been a bone of contention among councillors for many years. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the former PDs consider it essential to solving the city traffic problems and in encouraging business. Labour and Independent councillor Catherine Connolly believe it will only add to the congestion and open up land for unscrupulous developers, all at the expense of measures to facilitate rail, bus, and cycling use.
At the meeting the five Labour councillors voted for Cllr Connolly’s motion but there was some surprise that Cllr Niall McNelis did not break ranks, given that he is a member of the Galway Chamber of Commerce, which supports the completion of the bypass.
Speaking to the Galway Advertiser after the meeting Cllr McNelis defended his decision saying he was “elected to City Hall as a member of the Labour party and not for the Chamber of Commerce”.
“I have always made clear what my view on the bypass was,” he said. “Down the road if the bypass is something we really need and if there is proper planning, and concerns are met, we can have a debate on it, but there is simply no money for it and the bypass is also now before the courts.”
Cllr McNelis believes a wider view needs to be taken of how to deal with traffic congestion in the city, and he feels commitments given at Monday’s meeting about the Seamus Quirke Road are a positive development.
“Some €3.5 million was set aside but then withdrawn,” he said, “but officials have given a commitment that they will review this and that in the medium to long term there will be bus lanes and cycle lanes on the Seamus Quirke Road.”
According to Fine Gael Cllr Pádraig Conneely, the widening of the road to include bus lanes could go ahead in 2010 with a €2 million “kickstart” from the European Regional Development Fund which is available.