Galway’s current road structure is damaging to the progress of the entire region, Sen Ollie Crowe told the An Bord Pleanala oral hearing into the Galway City Ring Road yesterday (Wednesday ) morning.
Addressing the hearing remotely, he said that the return to normality for commuters and work in the coming year, will also see a return to the traffic chaos that is commonplace in the city.
He said he acknowledged that if the Ring Road does proceed, which he firmly believes it should, it will have serious negative impacts on people across the city.
“I have talked to people who are seriously worried about the possibility of losing their homes, a possibility which will become a reality should the project go ahead as currently planned. I have huge sympathy for those in this situation and appreciate how difficult it is for them, particularly with the drawn out process this project has been.
“Despite that, this project is essential for the future of Galway. Whilst this year has unfortunately been different in terms of traffic for obvious reasons, normality will return, hopefully sooner rather than later. What normality means in Galway on the roads, can only be described as chaos. It means one broken down car causing utter gridlock for thousands across the city trying to get to work, get to school, get home. It means workers in Parkmore Industrial Estate trying to get home to their families spending hours just trying to exit the estate. The strain this places on people cannot be emphasised enough and it is simply not sustainable that this situation is allowed to continue,” he said.
Sen Crowe said that he is aware of companies deciding between cities to set up in recent years and that in many cases Galway lost out, with traffic congestion being cited as a primary factor in such decisions.
“The facts are that Galway has largely been left behind in terms of road infrastructure. The constraints of having just four bridges and a narrow city centre road network are causing backups on the main arteries crossing the city on a daily basis. Other Irish cities have developed their road network whilst Galway has not.
“Limerick developed a new bypass infrastructure, which which culminated with the opening of the tolled 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 by up to 30 minutes. 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 big enough 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 the region. The comparison to Limerick is especially relevant as our Quincentennial Bridge is now in the same situation that the Limerick planners faced, as it is no longer big enough to cope with the increased demand and the roads feeding onto it are no longer fit for purpose,” he said.
“Similarly other cities have enhanced road networks in recent decades whilst Galway stood still, Waterford opened a bypass in 2009 and Cork has a tunnel and flyovers.
“With Galway city’s population predicted to increase considerable over the coming decades and estimated to be in excess of 120,000 by 2040 the need to upgrade our current roads network becomes abundantly clear.
“I would also like to be clear that I am not suggesting the ring road will be a silver bullet that alone solves the traffic issues facing Galway. Rather it is a substantial piece of the jigsaw, of course we also need to enhance our public transport network, develop bus lanes and bicycle lanes. Only an approach which includes all these aspects, which the Galway Transport Strategy does, can solve the riddle that is Galway’s traffic crisis.
“Galway’s current poor road infrastructure is a disservice to the people of the region, a major threat to the regional economy and a considerable risk to the future development of the region.
“For the benefit of our regional economy, for the well being of thousands of people who spend typically spend hours navigating the roads of Galway on a daily basis, the ring road is a project that must go ahead,” he concluded.