Athlone-based Senator, Gabrielle McFadden, has expressed concern that a planned redevelopment of the Church Street area of Athlone would have a detrimental effect on the town.
While acknowledging that enhancing the streetscape in Church Street is "welcome and necessary", Senator McFadden is resoundingly against making the street one way.
“Anyone who thinks back to 2008, when a one-way system was piloted previously, will recall that the changes to traffic flow drove people out of the town centre and businesses suffered as a consequence,” she said.
In a submission to Westmeath County Council, Senator McFadden outlined her opposition to a one-way system based on a number of factors. Some of these include: the negative effect on business in the centre of Athlone; the increased safety risk, as it would encourage drivers to drive more quickly; the detrimental knock-on effect on traffic flow in other parts of the town; the lack of consultation by Westmeath County Council; and the fact that several other options such as a shared urban space were not considered.
Senator McFadden also noted the contradiction between proposals for a one-way system and advice set out by the Department of Transport; the implications for the emergency services in the event of a serious incident; and the fact that a one-way system did not work before, as reasons for her opposition.
“As someone passionate about Athlone, I saw the devastation that the one-way system caused in 2008 and I organised a campaign 'No Way to the One-Way' to have the decision overturned," she said. "We gathered 4,500 signatures and presented them to councillors who decided to listen to the people and revert to a two-way system.
“Church Street is the heartbeat of Athlone and to do anything that would diminish it as a business district would be a huge blow to the centre of town. There is no point in having a beautiful streetscape on a dead street. I believe that the council have not considered all of the options and that we should not proceed with this work until there is agreement from those who are going to be affected most.”
The deadline for submissions to the public consultation process is Tuesday, April 4, at 4pm.