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13 point plan submitted to improve walking and cycling infrastructure in Laois town

A new speed limit, increased pedestrian crossings and new cycles lanes are some of a proposal to improve infrastructure in a Laois town.

The plan for Portarlington has been submitted to Laois County Council by Green Party representative John Holland.

Mr Holland, a Cork native now living Portarlington with his wife and two young children, says that the town ‘has been underfunded for active travel for years’ and he is calling on ‘Laois County Council to now provide improved walking and cycling infrastructure’.

In a detailed submission to the County Council, Mr Holland has pointed out the changing commuter trends in the town and the growing level of remote working.

He has highlighted the Council’s obligations under the Smarter Travel Scheme and the importance of using the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS) as a guiding document for a new infrastructure.

Mr Holland said: “Portarlington and its surrounding areas need to be more pedestrian and cycle friendly and more accessible for local residents of all ages and abilities.

“We need to see Portarlington more as a place and less as a thoroughfare. The key consideration needs to be the vulnerable road user.

“This is clearly not currently the case in Portarlington where cars are the primary consideration in current planning and infrastructure.

“Portarlington is designated as a Key Service Town within Laois and should be treated accordingly.”

In Mr Holland’s submission, he wishes to see a 30km/h speed limit introduced within the town – focussing especially on schools and main streets such as Station Road, Canal Road and the R420 main road through Portarlington from Lea Road/Canal Road junction to outside town boundary on Offaly side.

He also wants to see a pedestrian or raised zebra crossing installed at the Maxol roundabout and on Upper Main Street.

Mr Holland is also calling for three new cycle lanes to be created: One on Upper Main Street from the Maxol roundabout to the library, along Link Road to Market Square and up Patrick Street to Colaiste Iosagain; another on Station Road from Odlum’s roundabout to the train station; and a third on on Crowe Lane to Ballymorris Road roundabout and down to Sandy Lane National School.

While the Green Party representative wants to see a continuation of dual cycle lane on Canal Road from Scoil Phadraig to the Odlum’s roundabout.

Meanwhile, four new footpaths are also proposed under this submission.

These are: One on the right hand side of Station road from Portarlington train station to the turnoff for Corrig Wood; Another on Portlaoise Road R419 to Blackhall Bridge and up Canal Road to Ballymorris Road junction; a third on Corrig Lodge road from Corrig Wood to the last houses before Tirhogar Drive; and finally a footpath on Lea Road R420 to Portarlington Rugby Club.

Speaking about the submission, Green Party Minister Pippa Hackett says funding has been made available to local authorities for this work and there is no longer any excuse for not providing a good active travel system in a town like Portarlington.

She said: “The Government has made €50million available to local authorities for active travel as well as approving the appointment of 248 staff nationwide to work on improved infrastructure.

“Giving Portarlington a good public realm in its town centre and good access for walking and cycling could dramatically change the town for the better.

“It has a particularly young population ­- 53% of the population is under 35 – and we could eliminate a lot of short car journeys by offering them betters routes to the town centre.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.