A quiet community in Dangan will be converted into downtown Los Angeles when a motorway flyover is constructed beside it, a spokesman for a residents association told the Galway City Ring Road Oral Hearing yesterday (Wednesday ).
Aughnacurra Residents Association spokesman Stephen Maher, said their community of 14 houses will be turned upside down by this development.
"We do not think that a case has been made for the demolition of homes as required. I took a walk through our area this morning and imagined the scale of the destruction that will be inflicted on this community.
"It is a beautiful calm place. It will soon be a truncated cluster of houses all living near a flyover that is more downtown Los Angeles than Galway.
"Familes are fearful of what the future holds, and we are very opposed to the proposal," he said, before he was given assurances about the mitigation measures his group requested to offset the impacts of noise and proximity.
Opening the hearing, Dermot Flanagan SC for the Connolly Motor Group, said that they were supportive of the scheme at a time that is challenging for the motor industry in terms of climate change and Brexit. He addressed the concerns that his clients have in relation to some aspects of how the scheme affects their flagship franchises in the city, such as Audi and Mercedes at Ballybrit.
He said that this was a testing time for the motor industry because of Brexit and climate change and that his clients want to plans their business for the next three to five years and how the road development, which they welcome, might impact that.
Told about road before they moved in
Next up was Marie O hOEocha, a resident of Art na Locha, Bushypark who said that her family home was one of those earmarked for demolition.
"We built our house in 2014 and weeks before we moved in we were told by the Council that we were on three of the proposed motorway routes and that we faced eviction and demolition of our home.
"Ireland is at a real fork in the road now in terms of climate change and ecological destruction. We have little more than a decade to halt the destruction of the envronment. The decision that An Bord Pleanala make on this road is crucial. Your decision will be irreversible. It will increase the use of private cars in Galway. More roads mean more cars.
"The relief of congestion will be only a temporary one. We can never extend the heart of our medieval city it is a blatant falsehood that this will reduce congestion and gridlock. All GCRR will achieve is help drivers find more rat runs into the city centre," she said, adding that €650 million would be better spent on other transport projects.
Longtime campaigner Derrick Hambleton, speaking in a personal capacity said that he believes that in opting for development of another city by-pass, the current plan as designed would consign Galway city and county to yet more years of car-dependent urban sprawl.
"The N6 Ring Road with its additional links, is in effect to become itself a distributor road, which cuts through and divides city communities while causing unpardonable environmental damage, ‘disbursing’ cars into every area will resolve nothing.
"It can only make traffic worse, as can be seen in so many other locations with ring roads (Dublins M50, and London's infamous M25 are examples ).
"I am not a competent person to decide the fate of this road project, that is the function of An Bord Pleanala, the Courts in Ireland or ultimately, the European Court. It may yet be in the courts where it will be found that ministers and planners did not adequately take into account the Government’s climate change commitments as made in the Paris agreement.
"As in the case of Heathrow the determination might then be that this project fails the test. However, I have already concluded that this project as currently designed should be considered ‘undeliverable’ by your board," he said
Belts and obesity
Menlo native and Dublin-based architect Ciaran Ferrie told the hearing the applicants have failed to adequately demonstrate the necessity for the proposed ring road in that it has not taken sufficient regard to the impact that sustainable transport and active travel would have on the prevailing traffic issues; that the proposed ring road runs through the curtilage of Menlo Castle, and will irreparably damage the setting of the castle; and that the proposed road breaches Ireland’s legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement
He said that the construction of roads to combat congestion becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"It was perhaps best characterised by the visionary American urban planner, Lewis Mumford, over 60 years ago when he said “Adding highway lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.”
The question must be asked – “If the public transport model can’t deliver the necessary improvements to mobility in the city, have we got the wrong public transport model?” Are we being ambitious enough about our targets for sustainable and active travel? And what are our targets?
"The cost of the Galway Transport Strategy, including the Ring Road, has not been clearly defined but different figures in the public realm suggest it could be of the order of €1 billion. And what are we getting for that €1 billion? A reduction of five percentage points in mode share for cars, an increase in public transport use from 5.4 per cent to 6.8 per cent, and an ultimate figure of just six per cent for cycling. This is an absurdly low return for an investment of that size in a city with a population of 80,000 people.
"We need to look to other comparable cities which have successfully delivered sustainable transport solutions – what they have in common is that they have set ambitious targets for modal share. For example, Ghent in Belgium, a city four times the population of Galway implemented a plan in 2017 to increase cycling modal share from 22 per cent to 35 per cent by 2030. They achieved the 35 per cent just two years into the plan and are now revising their targets upwards. The plan has also resulted in a 12 per cent reduction in rush hour traffic in just two years and air quality in the centre improved by 18 per cent in the first year.
"Their 2030 target for car usage is to reduce it from 55 per cent to 27 per cent and to increase public transport usage from nine per cent to 20 per cent. By these standards the results we are getting from the Galway Transport Strategy and GCRR are ludicrous.
"We need to ask ourselves, what volume of private car traffic can the existing road system handle? And how do we reduce car-dependency to reach that figure?
"Sixty per cent of all traffic originates and terminates within the city boundary. How do we get to a situation where the car is unnecessary for those journeys? Over 60,000 people live within a 20 minute cycle of Eyre Square. What does an active travel network look like in a city where it is more attractive to walk or cycle than to take the car? What does a public transport system look like where it is more convenient to take public transport than to take the car? How do we need to plan the three large regeneration sites in the city to ensure that they deliver on a vision for a sustainable and liveable city. This is the starting point for a resilient and sustainable mobility plan," he concluded.