By Declan Tierney, Connacht Tribune
FIGURES have revealed that despite the opening of the new Tuam to Gort motorway, the number of vehicles that pass through Claregalway during morning rush hour has not significantly reduced.
In fact, although daily vehicle movements have fallen by 4,000, the number of cars passing through the village at a peak period in the morning shows a reduction of less than 8- – a traffic survey has found.
And this has led to renewed calls for the proposed Claregalway bypass to be put firmly back on the agenda – it is estimated that it would cost less than €20 million to provide.
A number of years ago, a Claregalway bypass was being actively discussed and even a route around the village was identified.
However, plans were shelved in favour of the Tuam to Gort motorway which the National Roads Authority believed would effectively become the ‘Claregalway bypass.’
But figures released to Cllr James Charity has had a negligible effect on traffic congestion during peak morning times – this has prompted him to call for a bypass to be provided around Claregalway.
The traffic count was conducted on the week before the motorway opened and the week after – the average daily traffic volume was just under 22,000 before the motorway opening and this reduced to less than 17,000 a week later.
But Cllr Charity noted that while there was an overall reduction of 4,000 vehicles a day, this was not reflected in the peak morning times when there was just a small reduction in traffic.
The independent councillor was referring to the findings from a traffic count that was conducted by Transport Infrastructure Ireland TII) and said that while there was an overall reduction in the number of cars travelling through Claregalway, figures for peak times during the morning remain relatively static.
“It is clear that based on the early figures and evidence available, the opening of the M17 has removed daily traffic from Claregalway and this is certainly to be welcomed.
“In particular, evening traffic flows from the city northwards have substantially improved, but the peak morning rush-hour trarffic remains very high and the experience on the ground is that motorists travelling through Claregalway are experiencing absolutely no improvement in congestion or journey times.
“With up to 17,000 cars a day passing through Loughgeorge along, before being joined by traffic from Claregalway and its environs, it is clear that the motorway is not going to be a long-term solution to the congestion being experienced through the village, as has long been suggested by department officials and TII engineers.
“It is long past time that a bypass was advanced for Claregalway.. this is a critically needed piece of infrastructure for Claregalway,” Cllr Charity argued.
The traffic survey was conducted during a seven day period from September 20 to 26 at Loughgeorge and again from September 28 to October 4. Significantly, it showed that during the 7am to 8am time a total of 1,080 cars passed through Claregalway but when the motorway opened, this only reduced to 1,004.