Mullingar’s path to smooth travel
Council meeting hears of plan for traffic in Mullingar for next generation (part 1 of 2)
Pinch-points, dodgy roundabouts, irritating traffic-lights and every aspect of the process of getting around and about in Mullingar are all set to come under the scrutiny of a consultancy firm engaged by Westmeath County Council to plot the transportation future for the town over the next 20 to 30 years.
Andrew Archer of the firm Systra explained the process and plan and the time schedule to members of the Mullingar Kinnegad Municipal District at their January meeting.
He also heard the views of members on what the crunch issues are, and in January and February will be asking the public for their ideas and analysis as well.
“What we’re trying to do with this study is provide people with a choice of travel options. If they can walk, we need to be encouraging them – or if they cycle or use public transport – rather than feel that the car is probably their primary or main choice,” Mr Archer told the meeting, stating that the Mullingar Area Transport Assessment Report was a really important piece of work for the town because it sets a direction in terms of the sustainable transport infrastructure – walking, cycling, public transport improvements, and managing cars as well.
Explaining that the input of the councillors would be key to the success of the project, Mr Archer explained that there will also be collaboration with directors of services, engineers and planners in Mullingar and there will be consultation with the public – not just at the start but when the report reaches draft stage.
Describing his immediate assessment of Mullingar, Mr Archer said one of the good things, in terms of how the town functions, was the way the greenways act as a spine through the town.
“Many towns you go to through in Ireland don’t have that kind of facility, and what that does is it gives a backbone for Active Travel in the town,” he said.
“Obviously being positioned on the national railway network, it has got very good connectivity to Dublin – that’s not to say further improvements could not be made, but it is a real asset; the frequency of services is relatively good and it’s a well-used service as well.”
Other dimensions that came in for praise from Mr Archer included proximity to the national and strategic road network; the public realm developments carried out along the town’s streets; the fact that it is a lively town and service, not just a population of 20,000 but a wide hinterland as well.
In terms of constraints, Mr Archer cited the congestion, which, he said, was in part down to the success of the town.
In addition, some of the streets and footpaths are quite narrow.
Mr Archer said the study would also look at the connectivity between residential, employment and educational land uses on the outside.
“What can we do into the future to encourage people to walk into town? What improvement in connections need to take place? What are those barriers to movement and also those busy roads that we need to address?” he asked.
Also in focus will be access to the rural hinterland and the availability of public transport offerings.
He said it would be important to get an understanding of how the town functions before starting to make recommendations.
After completion of that baseline stage, the focus would be on establishing a context, and through working with councillors and undertaking consultation, the team will start to develop some principles and objectives of what it would like to achieve and in the town.
After a number of stages, the objective would be to draw up a final shortlist of options, which are then put into the local transport plan, and at that point, it will go back out to public consultation to see what members of the public think of the proposals.
When whatever changes are required are made, the plan will be finalised: “And that plan is important because it’s going to guide future development for Mullingar over the next 20 years; it will be a plan you can then use to take on specific projects and then look for funding from different channels like the NTA.”
Key documents that will influence the document will include things like the Climate Action Plan, and local and regional development plans.
Traffic survey data will be collected so the team has an understanding of how people travel in town: “It is really important that we are able to do this, because you can’t really come up with transport measures and solutions if you don’t really understand how people move around in the town.”
Mr Archer said the idea is to try to finalise the transport assessment by the end of the year.
“By August what we’d like to have as an actual draft report,” he continued, stating that public consultation on that will take place in September; and from that the team will look to finalise the report.