If you are one of those that thinks Portlaoise already has enough roundabouts, think again.
There is a case being made for more roundabouts in the Town in the interest of road safety and traffic management and it makes sense when you look at it.
Whatever the collective from roundabouts is – perhaps, Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosie of roundabouts – Portlaoise councillors feel it’s they who are getting the run-around on their efforts to have more road junction roundabouts installed.
Of particular concern is what the town’s councillors regard as ‘the forgotten road’, also known as the Mountmellick Road or the N80. And then there is the troubled and beleaguered, bogged down in planning roundabout at Rockview, which is not going anywhere fast and certainly not at the Portlaoise College junction, but being relocated further up the road it seems.
It’s a long story, it’s a saga and one which Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald raised in exasperation and wants solved.
More roundabouts pronto on the Mountmellick Road at Harpur’s Lane, Dunne’s Stores and the Ballyfin Road. It’s impossible to get out on to that busy road on occasions and yet councillors collectively feel that the officials are not displaying the level of urgency required all round, so to speak.
What’s the update on the Rockview roundabout, queried Cllr Fitzgerald.
Engineer Farhan Nasiem of the road design section replied” “Laois County Council has completed the Part 8 planning process for the roundabout and all the lands required for the construction of the roundabout are in the possession of the Council. The proposed layout was subjected to an independent Road Safety Audit and all of the recommendations of the Road Safety Audit have now been incorporated into the design of the roundabout.
“Due to the timeframe required to obtain Part 8 approval, Laois County Council were unable to avail of the funding that was initially approved for 2018. Subsequently Laois County Council submitted a specific improvement grant application for funding to the Department in November 2018 for the 2019 scheme but this has not been approved by the Department for 2019. The Council will again apply for funding in November 2019 for the 2020 Scheme.”
You can imagine Cllr Fitzgerald’s reaction.
“This is so disappointing. For 5 years we’ve been working on this, meetings, consultations, public engagement, promises were made in the Parish Centre, guarantees were given. It’s a disaster, do we go back to the drawing board. I know it went to An Bórd Pleanála and the proposal is the change the point of entry and exit, but will it work, will people use it? We have a fried egg of a roundabout there but it’s not fit for purpose,” asserted Cllr Fitzgerald.
She admitted: “I know Portlaoise is known as the roundabout town but this is a very busy junction and now it’s a complete mess and we are further back than ever with the junction at Portlaoise College. Where’s the endgame, what about the residents of Rockview, where to now?”
“It’s a mess,” Cllr Caroline-Dwane was in full agreement. “The residents are very disappointed, the entrance is being moved up the road and it’s lethal there at present, an accident waiting to happen and is so busy with the school.
“The whole thing is being kicked down the road, what about the cost, will the developer be levied or make a contribution,” Cllr Dwane asked, while noting that the cost of the roundabout now mooted was around €300k.
Cllr Willie Aird noted that while it was easy to design something on paper it was a whole different matter to get people to follow that traffic plan. He had seen this first hand at Parkview.
“We have to keep the traffic moving, we gave approval to the new development at Rockview in good faith on the premise that the roundabout is staying where it is.”
Director of Services, Michael Rainey said that public safety was paramount.
He proposed that the councillors meet on site on the Mountrath Road with Donal Brennan who has responsibility for roads.
Cllr John Joe Fennelly said that the unction is now deadly dangerous and is supposed to be part of the town’s orbital route, while Catherine Fitzgerald said that it was hard to encourage heavy traffic to use the orbital route when the whole thing was in limbo over the roundabout.
Cllr Noel Tuohy insisted that a resolution has to be found as it has been dragging on now for five years, while Cllr Dwane said the residents in Rockview who bought their homes are left living on a building site.
Things were no better down the Mountmellick Road, where the Councillors said they were looking for new roundabouts for the past 20 years no less.
The engineer’s reply to Cllr Fitzgerald in this instance was not that reassuring either.
“At present there is no funding available for the design and construction of these roundabouts.
“Laois County Council road section will be submitting a proposal to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) safety engineer to fund these projects in 2019.”
“Look! I despair,” said Cllr Fitzgerald, as this is going on for twenty years.
“Sometimes it’s impossible to turn right from the Green Mill Lane on to the Mountmellick Road. Dunne’s presented the ideal opportunity when they applied for planning permission to take a small corner off the car park.
“We gave Dunne’s permission and even though there is plenty of space in that corner of the car park we missed out again. You are taking your life into your hands coming out on to the main N80; there are 800 pupils coming out of Scoil Bhríde and it’s also so busy down off the Ballyfin Road.
“It’s embarrassing, it’s the one road in the town, we’re going on and on and on about it and yet we have done nothing for them.”
Cllr Caroline Dwane agreed: “It is the forgotten road. There are pedestrian crossings and roundabouts on all other routes but on this end of town, nothing. It’s not on the TII radar. We had an ideal opportunity to solve it with the Dunne’s Stores planning and didn’t and now you are still left at the mercy waiting for someone to let you out on the main road.”
“This is the busiest traffic route in Portlaoise. It’s embarrassing. This whole section of road is neglected and we can’t blame the TII when for some unknown reason there is no one inside the local authority pushing it. It should have been a condition of the Dunne’s planning.”
Cllr Noel Tuohy agreed that the Mountmellick Road now needed to be prioritised as it had been completely neglected while all other approach roads in the town had been done.