Galway and its entire region depend on implementing a combined traffic relief plan, which incorporates a new road infrastructure, increased public transport system, and a better cycle path plan throughout the city.
Galway has far too many vehicles going directly through the city. At the moment there is no other choice. The city has been gridlocked for many years now and with current expansion expectations, it is only going to get worse. The many hours of wasted time we all endure while sitting in traffic is just one of the many negative effects of an inefficient city traffic management infrastructure. Furthermore, and arguably more importantly, the environmental costs are just too high. The impact on the quality of life for those living, working and visiting Galway is probably the most worrying effect of all.
Galway competes daily with cities, towns and regions across the world in many areas such as business, investment and tourism, and we are already losing out.
The real problem lies in the fact that our beautiful 800-year-old medieval city wasn’t designed to cater for the current number of vehicles traversing through it on an hourly basis never mind on a daily basis. The constraints of having just four bridges and a narrow city centre road network are causing backups on the main arteries crossing the city daily.
All is not lost yet
And when an accident occurs in the city, well we are all aware of the increased difficulties this causes. But all is not lost just yet, as there are several ways to improve the traffic situation and looking at what other cities have achieved may offer some clues.
For example, Limerick City vastly improved city life by designing a new bypass infrastructure, which culminated with the opening of the bypass in 2004. This clever move by the planners put an end to the dreaded tail back up to and over Shannon Bridge and cut travel times through the city significantly. The comparison to Limerick is justifiable as our Quincentennial Bridge is now in the same situation that the Limerick planners faced, as it is no longer able to cope with the increased demand and the roads feeding onto it are no longer fit for purpose.
More recently in 2010 the Limerick Tunnel was opened again to improve access and support economic growth in that region. Just before Christmas, a planning application was lodged with An Bord Pleanala for a new Foynes to Limerick road including a bypass of Adare. Limerick is a competitor of Galway and I outline all the aforementioned to highlight the serious need for us to start to realise and appreciate that we cannot sit still. Waterford got a Bypass in 2009. Cork has a tunnel and flyovers.
Limerick is an example of the will to ensure they will not be left behind and are conscious of the need to develop the region in a responsible manner. It shows that if you offer an alternative, a dramatic and instant reaction can be achieved. When I highlighted my commitment to building the bypass for Galway it certainly started a timely and lively debate. It comes down to this, Galway must do four things to ease traffic. Firstly, build the bypass.
Once this is underway more new bus lanes in and around Galway should be introduced with incentives in place to encourage the switch to public transport. A new series of one-way systems should also be implemented to good effect and a full cycle lane infrastructure should be designed to work in conjunction with the new traffic flow. Bus lanes, cycle lanes and one-way systems cannot be implemented to a significant effect until the existing traffic has somewhere else to go. By building the bypass everything else can be addressed in a timely manner while maintaining Galway’s vital historic character.
Major loss of business opportunity
Galway’s current poor road infrastructure translates simply to a major loss of business opportunity as well as increased costs for every business sector right across the county. Galway city centre may be the source of regional traffic problems, but the economic costs are borne by every sector. The benefits the new bypass brings will also stimulate economic growth by creating a better connection between people, industry, jobs and housing, while at the same time removing traffic from the city centre, creating a better place for walking and cycling with improved air quality.
While not well publicised, I am acutely aware that Galway has in recent times lost out to Limerick on companies setting up here because of traffic congestion. Limerick is now competing with us and are selling a better story because their road infrastructure is more modern. The reality is, for investment in roads, public transport and cycle lanes at the level we need in Galway you need political will at the highest level. It will not be done otherwise. We all have seen politicians for the past decade and longer make promises on this very thing and yet it has not happened.
Unless there is change, it will continue as is. The other political reality is that no Independent can or will ensure that this necessary investment happens. Only parties will large number of TDs can. I am giving you a commitment that if elected to Dail Eireann, I will work along with all my colleagues and our leader, Micheal Martin TD to obtain the necessary investment to ensure Galway thrives into the future. We can no longer sit still. We must look to the future.