'Listen to concerns of businesses over town traffic,' Glynn pleads
Westmeath County Council should go door-to-door asking local business people what they feel about traffic movement in Mullingar town centre, Cllr Ken Glynn says.
Traders are raising their concerns with him “on an ongoing basis”, he told members of the executive of the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad at their November meeting.
“I work in retail. When you work in retail, you understand totally what it means to get that footfall in your door, because if you don't have the footfall, you don't have a business.
"So I'm appealing to the executive here today to understand the issues that are being continuously raised,” he said.
Cllr Glynn had a formal request on the agenda: that a time-frame be given for when “necessary changes can be implemented in the town traffic lights system”.
“The problems remain,” Cllr Glynn told the executive, referring to the sequencing issues which he believes have impeded traffic flow in Mullingar.
Cllr Glynn wasn’t satisfied with the response from the executive, which stated that the current traffic lights are operating as designed “which is to encourage traffic flow while prioritising pedestrian safety”.
“I did have a motion approved here a couple of years ago, which offered a solution,” he said. That proposal was that a roundabout be reintroduced at McDonald’s.
He reminded the meeting that his fellow councillors had supported his solution, but it hasn't been acted on as it was agreed to await the outcome of the current study going on in relation to the Active Travel scheme in Mullingar.
“I’m asking for the executive to listen because I'm bringing in the views of not only the people out there that shop in our town every day of the week - we have a fantastic town and we have fantastic businesses - but I don't know why you don’t go out and talk to the businesses. [If] you’re on the ground listening to those people and listening to how it’s affecting them on a day-to-day basis, it might just assist in rectifying this problem.”
Support came from Cllr Andrew Duncan, who said there should be clarity on what the objective of the expenditure on the new traffic system was, which he believed was to take traffic out of town: “[If so] how do you do it? Is it by making it less attractive to be in there? If I was a cynic, I would say that it was,” he said.
Cllr Duncan went on to say that traffic flow is fine most of the time, but that there are “pinch points” at times such as Friday afternoon, or on a Saturday, when the town becomes gridlocked.
“So maybe we should look at some sort of an alleviation: turn off the lights for an hour on a Friday afternoon. Maybe the same on the Saturday afternoon. I would certainly suggest that around Christmas because the last thing we want to do is to discourage people - by negative publicity - from coming into the town.”
Cllr Aoife Davitt said one area she considered a pinch point was Nugent’s Corner, and she asked if there is any recent data or new statistics demonstrating what the effect of the altered traffic arrangements had been.
She also contended that because of the wait time at some traffic lights, motorists are sometimes doing U-turns on the street.
Cllr Denis Leonard predicted that without a solution, things will only get worse: “Mullingar is growing: there’s a huge amount of estates going into it now. Those of us in rural Ireland who come in for Christmas shopping or any other thing don't have public transport worth talking about, so we have to drive in.”
The view of Cllr Frank McDermott is that the system works “exceedingly well” – when there is very little traffic about, but he felt there was a problem at McDonald’s because pedestrians are allowed “get in the middle of [the] way” by virtue of the fact that often, just as motorists are about to move, the pedestrian lights change.