The junction between Castle Street, Austin Friars Street and Oliver Plunkett Street has traffic lights and a single lane on Castle Streete – whereas there used to be two lanes and a roundabout there.

Round and roundabout

• Councillors demand that roundabout at McDonald’s in Mullingar be reinstated

• Council official says pedestrian safety is priority at one of busiest junctions

Opinion is divided on the merits of bringing back the roundabout at McDonald’s, the junction of Pearse Street and Castle Street, Mullingar.

Cllr Andrew Duncan feels the roundabout worked well for 25 or 30 years and is the only solution to the bottleneck that Westmeath County Council created in the town centre.

District engineer, Pat Kavanagh, maintains the present arrangement is much safer for pedestrians, who are the ones spending money in the town centre shops, and suggests that frustrated motorists are inclined to exaggerate queue times.

Cllr Duncan called for the reinstatement of the roundabout at the December meeting of the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad.

“The town traffic is simply not working. I have engaged with quite a few of the businesses just to get their feedback. I didn’t think so many people had an issue with it, and almost everybody I spoke to has an issue with it,” he said.

“The traffic coming down Dominick Street, coming back around Penny’s, all those areas, it’s fine. It works quite well around Blackhall – however, the minute you get into west, east and you get into Mount Street and you hit that area there, that’s it: you hit gridlock.

“What’s happening is it’s forcing people to break lights coming up from that very short window of opportunity through Mount Street, which is causing a traffic jam further back, and then you are looking at a kind of an easing of traffic as you come back out Austin Friars Street,” he said.

Cllr Duncan said we have created a problem there – that is the reality and we are going to have a bottleneck until we do something about it, he said.

“It’s not the biggest thing in the world to put a roundabout back in there. It’s being made out to be something hugely problematic – it’s not!

“There was one there for 25, 30 years, it worked well. And it needs to go back.”

Mr Kavanagh said in response: “It is busy the past week or two; it is Christmas; there is an awful lot more pedestrian traffic on the streets – and the area you talk about being a bottleneck, it’s actually probably the centre linkage between the main shopping areas of Mullingar and the centre of Mullingar.

“If you go down there at any time, I would say an average of about 20 people cross that junction at every single phase. We have to look at the safety of pedestrians. It’s not just about speeding traffic. I do appreciate that people can get frustrated and sometimes exaggerate queue times.”

He urged councillors to look at pedestrian safety at junctions. “We often sit here and talk about traffic, but the traffic doesn’t actually spend money in the town – the pedestrian is the one that walks into a shop and spends money. The car parks are quite busy,” he said.

“It’s something we need to be very conscious of when talking about roundabouts. I am not aware of any accidents happening in Mullingar town at that junction. When the roundabout was put in, it was for very different reasons, it was before Mullingar had orbital routes or a by-pass around it. It was to alleviate very heavy traffic congestion. And it wasn’t terribly safe for pedestrians,” Mr Kavanagh continued.

The council have engaged a traffic consultant to carry out a transportation study of the town. All traffic, public transport and pedestrian flows will be examined as part of the study. Council officials will have a meeting with the consultants in the immediate future.

In addition, the traffic light contractor has been commissioned to monitor every junction to ensure that each set of signals is operating as per design and all hardware and software is working correctly and there are no issues with services.

Following that, the possibility of alterations in sequencing and other measures at certain junctions will be considered.

That is an area the council will be monitoring closely along with all the other junctions in and around the town, Mr Kavanagh said.