New Roscrea traffic plan proposes interesting changes

Thursday, 29 June 2017

ROSCREA will soon benefit from a new traffic management plan, which has been very well received by local representatives and hailed as a carefully considered traffic system aimed at future-proofing Roscrea.
How the people of Roscrea travel in their own town and how both commercial traffic and visitors to the town travel has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Once a thriving industrial hub, Roscrea's direction has changed and the town is becoming more tourist orientated - a fact reflected in the proposed new traffic management system.
Roscrea's main problems concerning traffic relate principally to pedestrian safety and the proliferation of parking in the town centre. Startlingly, 70% of all recorded collisions in Roscrea in the last ten years have involved pedestrians - a statistic that was a priority in the minds of consultant company, Roadplan, when they approached tackling Roscrea's issues.
Dermot Donovan, Engineer for Roadplan, told the members of the Municipal Council for the Roscrea area at their monthly meeting in Thurles last Wednesday that pedestrian safety is key in Roscrea's new plan and that the plan is built upon the foundations set out in the 2013 Roscrea Enhancement Plan.
Car parking is the second big issue in Roscrea, a town where congestion is not a problem and there is no disparity between journey times at different times of the day.
Other advantages lie in Roscrea's geographical layout, where river severance through the town is not an issue and railway severance, although covered by bridges which are narrow and poorly aligned, present very little problems.
The most striking proposals in the new plan are introducing a parallel parking system on Castle Street and Main Street instead of the current perpendicular system, the installation of a roundabout at Market Cross and the creation of a relief road through the former Antigen industrial complex.
The intention of the latter being to ease the burden on the traffic lights junction and make negotiating the constrictive junction easier for HGV vehicles - particularly those travelling in the direction of Kinnitty.
“The traffic lights junction is straining and the Kinnitty arm is the worst performing. This junction is almost at peak capacity and a link road would be the best option, which could also link to the Old Dublin Road," Mr Donovan said.
A main plank of the proposed plan would see much more space devoted to pedestrians, with wider footpaths throughout the town, more frequent crossing points and low height kerbing designed to assist ease of access for older pedestrians, disabled people and buggies.
Age friendly design is a key aspect of these changes, where higher grade materials that give the effect of 'transition zones' that influence motorists to slow down and be more conscious of pedestrians are created with tactile paving, dished crossing points and improved street furniture.
“The town is well served by a strong road network and has many major roads nearby and a strong regional road network," Mr Donovan told the meeting.
“However, a large portion of the town's population live outside the bypass which leads to a lot of short journeys and pedestrians are forced to use very poor pedestrian infrastructure," Mr Donovan said.
Opening up better channels to the carparks located west of the town centre in the direction of Chapel Lane and Gantly Road are also a priority, bolstered by the consultants' observation that those carparks are very under utilised, which they blame on poor ease of access for pedestrians.
Mr Donovan said consultations with the Chamber of Commerce highlighted this and that the Chamber feel the carparks are under used due to bad connectivity.
“Usually people park in the car-parks in Roscrea for approximately one hour and on the street it's usually a two hour stay. We will reduce the on-street parking and improve the signage for the carparks, with the emphasis on improving the pedestrian links," the consultant engineer said.
The plan also proposes a one way system for part of Green Street, where residents have complained to the Council for many months about build up of noisy traffic and what they feel are inappropriate speed ramps.
John Jones, Engineer for the District seconded the Greet Street proposal and told the meeting that residents are very unhappy about the volume of traffic and that he agrees a one way system for the top of the street would be the best solution.
One way shuttle systems are also proposed for Church Street at the Round Tower and also on The Mall, where the road and footpaths taper in and do not allow sufficient space for two vehicles to pass. The current informal system where motorists politely allow one vehicle through at a time, will be formalised Mr Donovan said, with more space given over for pedestrians to travel safely.
The road known locally as "the bypass" is also earmarked for significant changes and Mr Donovan proposed the road be given a name as a first step towards changing the local perception of this road.
The bypass, he said has outgrown its original intended use and has essentially become subsumed into the inner town road network. A very large portion of the town's population live outside the periphery of this road, which further highlights how it no longer functions as a ring-road type route.
Instead the road should be better utilised for access to lands and the speed limits lowered, with the hard shoulders converted to cycle-paths and pathways created for the large numbers of walkers and joggers who favour the route.
Traffic lights will be introduced at the junction for the Knock Road, a junction which has been the site of fatal accident last year and numerous other less serious traffic incidents.
“This road needs to feel like a road within the town. The speed limits should be lowered to 80kph and the road can be blended in better with the town's network. Converting the hard shoulders would be very beneficial, because they make the motorist think they are on a fast road in a non-urban environment. It's much better to use the shoulders for cyclists," Mr Donovan said.
However, consultation with the Roscrea Chamber revealed that they do not support lowering the speed limits or converting the hard shoulders on the bypass.
Mr Donovan told the meeting he was very impressed with the consultation process in Roscrea and singled out the Chamber of Commerce's submission for particular praise.
“Their submission was very positive and their main issue was the reduction parking spaces on Main Street. They also want the current traffic flow system on Green Street retained and instead of parallel parking, they want an angled system," Mr Donovan said.
On the latter issue the engineer said that angle parking actually decreases the number of spaces possible and also inhibits ease of use for motorists.
Notably, Mr Donovan also added that should the railway line passing through Roscrea from Ballybrophy to Limerick ever close, which has been under discussion about potential closure at government level, the corridor created by the rail-line would make an ideal route for a new relief road which provides good access to Gantly Road.
“So if the railway is ever abandoned it is important that the line be kept in Council ownership," he said.
Responding to the presentation, Cathaoirleach of the Municipal Council, Seamus Hanafin applauded how thorough the plan was, but did voice his concerns about the hard shoulders on roads being converted to cycle paths.
“It's very important the concerns of the Chamber in Roscrea are taken on board - the goodwill of the business community is essential for a plan like this to succeed. However, I don't agree with the hard shoulders for cyclists, the same thing was tried in Thurles and they are actually dangerous," the cathaoirleach said.
Roscrea based councillor, Michael Smith, also welcomed the plan and said the consultation process was very successful, with 14 submissions sent in from different businesses and individuals in the town.
Engineer for the Municipal District, John Jones, added that a landscape architect will also be involved in the project and that one of the first steps of implementing the new plan - the roundabout on Market Square - will go to tender two months from now, with construction commencing early in 2018.


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