Galway motorists are in for a “long-suffering winter and New Year” of traffic delays, disruptions, and congestion “hundreds of time worse” than what they experience now, when work starts on replacing seven of the city’s roundabouts with signalised junctions.
This is the view of Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely who is warning of “chaos” once the works start. However city manager Joe O’Neill has come out in defence of the planned works, saying City Hall “would not be undertaking this if we didn’t think we would have a better outcome at the end of the day”.
At Monday’s city council meeting, 10 councillors voted to remove the Font and Morris roundabouts and replace them with signalised junctions, with five voting against. The junctions will be operated by City Hall under an urban traffic control system.
The vote brings to three the number of roundabouts due for abolition, with work due to start on the Lynch Roundabout soon. The fate of the remaining four N6 Bothar na dTreabh roundabouts will be decided over the coming months. However it is almost certain they will also be replaced by the signalised junctions.
The move has proven incredibly controversial, with City Hall coming in for fierce criticism from motorists, the Galway Chamber of Commerce, and some councillors who feel the construction and operation of the junctions will create more problems than they will solve.
Speaking to the Galway Advertiser, Mr O’Neill said the installation of a UTC system will enable City Hall increase traffic flow, which the present roundabout system does not allow.
“We have to give priority to traffic coming in in the morning and going out in the evening,” he said, “but at the moment we can do nothing about it as you cannot control the flow of traffic in roundabouts. The signalised junctions will give us more control over traffic movements.”
Mr O’Neill said that, as the UTC system is manually operated, City Hall will be able to monitor all traffic, see where congestion is building up, and take action. He said motorists will for the most part be able to go from green lights to green lights, rather then green at one set of traffic lights and red at the next.
Cllr Conneely, though, was scathing about this saying “anything operated by City Hall will be a disaster”. He believes the system will not work as the distances between the seven roundabouts are too short to prevent congestion, especially on somewhere like the Headford Road with traffic coming from various busy locations such as Terryland, the Galway Shopping Centre, Quincentennial Bridge, and the city centre.
The Mayor of Galway Hildegarde Naughton also voted against abolishing the roundabouts but argues that a UTC centre should go in anyway to ensure the existing lights are sequenced and controlled.
“Then we would be in a better position to deal with roundabouts on the N6,” she said, “all of which are unique and may require different solutions.”
Much of the criticism rests on motorists’ experience of the Moneenageisha junction. However Mr O’Neill said problems there will be addressed as part of the overall N6 works.
He also said councillors will be presented with detailed plans showing when and how the works are going to take place, the measures that will be taken to counteract traffic disruption during construction, and the length of time works will take.
Cllr Conneely believes “Galwegians are in for a long-suffering winter and New Year” as “you cannot do this kind of work without creating problems for traffic”. Mr O’Neill says that, while there will be some disruption, he does not believe it will be as great as critics fear.