The recent NRA funding of €4.3 million is a big boost and will help make a “real difference” in the city council’s work to provide high standard road infrastructure and improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians, according to Joe Tansey, head of the Galway Transportation Unit.
Speaking in response to criticisms in last week’s issue by campaign groups who said they had no confidence in the council’s intended use of the funding and that not enough has been done to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, Mr Tansey told the Galway Advertiser that extensive consultations and surveys have been conducted, problem locations identified, and design elements scrutinised, to ensure a balance is struck and that all road users are catered for. With regard to the latest funding, he said the Transportation Unit is currently developing a programme of works with the view of its being presented at the city council meeting on February 14.
“Walking and cycling is very important to us, we have to cater for those competing demands and look at the overall context. We have been looking at many schemes but funding is always an issue. This latest funding has given us a big boost and it is going to make a real difference, it is certainly good news, and it will give Galway a real advantage. We want to showcase Galway and make it a model of better practice,” he said.
Mr Tansey explained that the €4.3 million will be used for the “N6 corridor enhancement scheme” which runs from near to the new M6, at the Coolagh roundabout, through to Briarhill, Ballybane, then on to the Tuam Road, at the Font roundabout, and from there to Terryland, at the Kirwin roundabout, and then to the Brown roundabout at Seamus Quirke Road. It is planned to use the funding for works that will help relieve congestion on this route and improve cycling and pedestrian facilities.
“There are a number of key roundabouts on the route,” explains Mr Tansey. “From international research and from our own consultations on the Galway Metropolitan Smarter Travel Area Bid, as well as the Walking and Cycling Strategy, it told us that roundabouts pose significant difficulties for cyclists and pedestrians. In that context we are glad of the opportunity to look at ways of improving those junctions and enhancing facilities. In conjunction with that we also plan to enhance and upgrade the existing facilities, in particular from the Seamus Quirke Road junction all the way through to the Tuam Road. The cycling lanes there, some of which have been there for 20 years, need work on resurfacing and remarking to high specification.
“We’re looking at it being carried out in different phases. We are currently developing a programme of works to present to the council at the February 14 meeting. We have to look at the design elements to see what we can propose and bring forth. Arising from that we will be going through the formal planning process, which we hope will be before the summer. This process will then allow for full public consultation.”
Mr Tansey said that making the best use of what is already in place will form part of the proposed works as well as dealing with surfacing issues which have been identified as a “deterrent” to cyclists. “We’re trying to embark on a scheme to provide a higher specification premium surface [at cycling lanes]. Survey respondents have said that the surface is not to the same high standard as it is out on the road. The next issue is the junctions/roundabout. Here cyclists and pedestrians are vulnerable. We’re looking at putting in additional pedestrian crossing facilities, signalised crossing. There are some cases where this is included in the traffic lights but there are other cases, like down at the Dock Road, where we’ve had to put in new ‘stand alone’ pedestrian lights. There’s an awful lot to do for the planning of this and it is crucial to get the views of the public,” said Mr Tansey, before adding that it is hoped that work can begin on footpaths and cycleways in the first half of this year while some work on junctions could begin in the second half of the year.
The Transportation Unit has been involved in extensive consultation, in particular as part of the Smarter Travel Bid and the Walking and Cycling Strategy, where a number of issues were identified and the council fully acknowledges the importance of further promoting walking and cycling. Mr Tansey said the council continues to make every effort to meet various focus groups and consult available research in order to take into account all viewpoints and competing demands. “We try to reach a satisfactory resolution. Our agenda has to have regard for all sections,” said Mr Tansey. The Galway Transportation Unit has also confirmed plans to develop a new cycling forum where different viewpoints can be aired and considered in order to strike a balance in services and facilities planned for the future.