New road markings, malfunctioning traffic lights and the bus strike combined to create a ‘perfect storm’ on the roads this week – with what has been described as the worst traffic Galway has ever seen.
Motorists spent up to two-and-a-half hours stuck in traffic on Monday morning on the approach from the M6 motorway to the Briarhill junction – because an ‘upgrade’ of the lights over the weekend instead caused a systems failure.
On Tuesday, the problem had moved to the Monivea Road, while by Wednesday morning, both approach roads were affected.
Galway West TD Noel Grealish said traffic this week was “an absolute disaster, probably the worst Galway has ever seen, and we already have a bad reputation”.
Meanwhile, the Chief Superintendent of the Galway Garda Division has said he does not have the resources to have officers on point duty to direct traffic.
The fault with the lights, coupled with the elimination of one of the right turn lanes from the Monivea Road onto the dual carriageway towards the Tuam Road junction and the strike by Bus Éireann workers, “turned the motorway into the M50”, as one road user put it.
Galway City Council ordered the installation of a new component in the Briarhill lights on Saturday night to allow them to be controlled from the traffic centre at City Hall – this was part of an effort to alleviate problems caused by lane marking changes at the end of February, which themselves were designed to help flow into and out of Parkmore Industrial Estate.
The key change at the Briarhill junction has been the allocation of two lanes of traffic for vehicles incoming on the Monivea Road and turning left onto the dual carriageway towards the motorway. This has been achieved by ‘sacrificing’ one of the two lanes for traffic coming from the Monivea Road and turning right onto the dual carriageway towards the Fleming’s Garage/Tuam Road junction. The City Council did not realise until 7.30am on Monday that the Briarhill lights were not communicating with the command centre – a fibre optic cable had been accidentally damaged during the installation of the new component.
The Council was inundated with complaints about the traffic backlogs on the N6 dual carriageway, and as far back as J19 Oranmore on the motorway, which did not clear until lunchtime.
One motorist told the Connacht Tribune that she left Craughwell at 9.20am, and still hadn’t reached the Briarhill lights at 11am.
Others reported spending up to two-and-a half hours stuck in traffic.
“Galway City Council managed to turn the M6 into the M50 in Dublin. I have never seen anything like it, even when there’s a crash, because at least then, the Gardái would have been on duty. How do they keep getting it so wrong? another asked.
The communications fault was repaired on Monday afternoon, but motorists travelling in the Monivea Road the following morning faced long delays instead.
Deputy Noel Grealish said: “I’m absolutely furious. It took me an hour and twenty minutes to get from Carnmore to Briarhill. Traffic in Galway is an absolute mess. As I told the Taoiseach in the Dáil, all our eggs are in the one basket, the new road (outer bypass) which won’t be built for ten years. What is everyone going to do in the meantime?
“I’m not a planning consultant, I don’t know what the answer is, but we need Plan B, we need a taskforce immediately,” said Deputy Grealish.
Uinsinn Finn,Senior Engineer with the City Council, told the Connacht Tribune that the changes are part of the short-terrm measures being put in place to try and ease the traffic congestions resulting from the huge volumes of traffic approaching Briarhill from the Parkmore Road.
“We are looking at Parkmore Road that has a daily traffic count of 14,000 vehicles a day, with many of those trying to get onto the N6/M6 roadway during peak time evening traffic.
“Access onto that route from the Monivea Road was increased to two lanes from the end of last month with a lane less into the city – earlier this week more time on the lights was given to the inbound city traffic.
“This is all part of a €7 million package of medium-term measures being put in place over the next couple of years, involving planning and the compulsory acquisition of lands, which will include a five-lane entry onto the Briarhill junction.
“The long-term solution will come with the provision of the Ring Road (the Outer Bypass) that will take traffic out of the city centre that doesn’t need to go there in the first place,” he said.
He said the junction is over capacity, and lights and Gardái cannot fix that. Mr. Finn added that a survey of Parkmore employees found that nine out of ten people came to work in single occupancy cars.
Chief Supt Tom Curley said the problem was going on for years, and he did not have the resources to have a guard on point duty for three hours every morning and evening.
“We have to look at alternatives, like buses. If I’m putting a guard there (at the junction), what about the person doing 160km/h on the motorway?” he said.