Council commissions new study to try and solve Mullingar's traffic problems

A new study is being carried out in a bid to solve Mullingar's long-standing traffic problems.

Councillors were informed at this month's meeting of Mullingar Kinnegad Municipal District (MKMD) held yesterday (Monday) that the local authority is currently appointing a consultant “to carry out an area-based transportation plan for the town of Mullingar” and that the study will “examine all transportation issues”.

Cllr Ken Glynn, who submitted a motion calling for MKMD to bring forward proposals to alleviate traffic congestion in the centre of town and, in particular at the “McDonald's junction”, greeted the news about another study with scepticism.

The Fianna Fail man was one of a number of councillors who asked if the sequencing of the lights at the McDonald's junction and other “pinch points” in the town centre could be altered to improve traffic flow at peak times.

“We know the pinch points. We don't need consultants or anyone else to come in and tell us the pinch points or the bad times of the day that we have issues with.

“Is it possible to have the lights tweaked to have longer see throughs at peak times...these are supposed to be smart lights.

“If we were able to do something with the lights at those peak times maybe that would shut the likes of me up and we could get on with waiting for this plan. As it stands, it's lip service as far as I'm concerned...I want action,” he said.

Cllr Aoife Davitt said that the sequencing at the traffic lights at the McDonald's junction needs to be increased to allow more cars to get through.

“Those lights [at Church Avenue and Castle Street] give you one milli-second nearly to exit a junction. That's not right.”

Cllr Davitt also said that the sensors that communicate with the smart traffic lights need to be marked more clearly so that motorists know where to correctly position their cars to activate the sequencing.

She also said that something needs to be done to address the growing number of motorists who perform U-turns on the town's roads.

“Between delivery drivers and people who are frustrated with traffic there will be a serious incident where someone will get hit by someone doing a U-turn.”

Cllr Emily Wallace said the congestion problems around the McDonald's junction have gotten worse in recent months.

“I can travel around Dublin a lot more swiftly and easier than I can Mullingar at certain points.”

Cllr Mick Dollard said that a study carried out before the €3m town enhancement works a number of years ago found that one in four cars travelling through Mullingar don't stop in the town.

He believes that more signage needs to erected for motorists who may not be “au fait” with the town's road layout.

“Let people know that they don't actually have to travel into Mullingar,” he said.

Mayor Hazel Smyth said that while she agrees that something needs to be done to alleviate traffic congestion in the town, she said the bike rental scheme needs to be extended to include e-bikes and cargo bikes.

She also said that it is important that when the new transport plan is being drawn up that improved safety measures for cyclists are included.

“I hear similar stories from cyclists around the town that it doesn't feel all the safe. I do hope the wider plan takes into consideration the needs of those who wish to consider alternatives [to cars] and also pedestrians. I do hope that all that could help alleviate the traffic congestion issues that we are seeing around the town.”

Cllr Denis Leonard said that the ring roads around the town need to be used more. He also said that the Mullingar area bus service needs to be rolled out “asap”.

“Rather than arguing about the route and where it's going ad nauseam we need to get it sorted and get it done,” he said.

Director of Services David Jones said that the lights at all of the junctions are interlinked which means that altering the sequencing at one could have an impact on the others.

“Hence the reason that the Mullingar transport study will look at everything in its totality and allow any amendments to be made in that strategic, joined up approach,” he told councillors.

Mr Jones also said the appointment of the consultant to carry out the study has taken longer than anticipated as it had to be put out to tender again as initially there was no response from interested parties.

“Perhaps it's not a bad thing. Hopefully the remnants of Covid are now washed through the system and we are now back to what is considered the new norm in terms of traffic volumes within the town and therefore the study can capture accurate real-life data...”