• Business

Two tough years of road closures lie in store for town’s motorists

Thursday, 21st February, 2019 10:05pm

Story by Kieran O'Mahony
Two tough years of road closures lie in store for town’s motorists

Following complaints about traffic delays, Irish Water has said that advance warnings will now be given of closures, and that planned works will be carried out in phases. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

Irish Water and its contractor are hoping that new measures will alleviate the type of recent traffic gridlock in Bandon which caused chaos in the town

 

IRISH Water has offered reassurance to motorists in Bandon that the gridlock of recent weeks won’t be repeated.

The comments came as Irish Water and contractors continue work on the two-year €14m upgrade to the town’s water mains and sewer network.

The utility has stressed that improved traffic management policies are being put in place and they hope this will appease frustrated business owners, residents and motorists, after the town found itself choked in traffic for several days.

Bandon experienced traffic chaos as preliminary works were being carried out by contractors Ward & Burke in what one local TD described as ‘one of the largest infrastructure projects to be undertaken in any town in Ireland by Irish Water.’

A Council official later said that the contractors had ‘got a dose of reality about the traffic in Bandon’ and that it was certainly ‘an eye opener.’

Frustrated motorists found themselves stuck in long tailbacks across the town recently, while ‘trail-holing’ works were being undertaken on the Glasslyn Rd. With a vital route like lower Oliver Plunkett St closed off after a building collapse before Christmas, there was a ‘perfect storm’ of traffic gridlock created.

Before an actual pipe has even been laid, some residents have claimed the works have already left a bad taste in the mouths of locals and traders. 

But, following complaints from business owners and local representatives, Irish Water – which is heading up the major scheme – said that advance warnings will be now be given through adequate signage and local media and planned works will be carried out in phases in order to reduce impact to businesses and residents.

‘All HGVs coming from the Clonakilty direction are asked to avoid the town centre and divert via the by-pass. HGVs and LGVs approaching Bandon from Cork on the N71 can use the R589 via Crossbarry and Brinny, which will bring traffic to the north of the town,’ they said. 

Planned works that were due to begin on the Link Rd, which joins the Mill Rd to the N71 were delayed from last week and commenced on Monday. Also works that were expected to take place at Laurel Walk were postponed until Monday of this week in order to accommodate the mock exams at the nearby Hamilton High School.

Traffic disruption will be a regular occurrence during the works with North Main St set to be closed all summer to facilitate the works. 

A meeting organised by junior minister Jim Daly last week brought together various stakeholders, including officials from Irish Water, Ward & Burke, Cork County Council and members of Bandon Business Association (BBA) to discuss the recent traffic congestion and come up with solutions.

Positive solutions by all parties were agreed, including the need for increased signage at all approaches to the town, as well as diversions for all traffic and in particular HGVs that don’t need to access the town.

Deputy Daly reiterated at the meeting that ‘communication’ was key when it came to a project of this size.

The issue was also top of the agenda at a recent meeting of Bandon Kinsale Municipal District, prior to the new assurances by Irish Water, where councillors had called for a more improved communication strategy from both Ward & Burke and Irish Water.

Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) said it was ‘cat melodeon’ having found herself stuck in long tailbacks  to get across town.

‘It was bumper-to-bumper congestion for hours on end –it was taking people an hour to get across town. People know there will be disruption and delays but these particular delays were down to poor traffic management and a shocking absence of signs,’ said Cllr Coughlan.

‘This happened over a couple of days and we, as Cork County Council, need to be able to stand up to the contractors and say we need to amend the traffic management plan, and we need to ensure that unnecessary traffic doesn’t come into the town.

‘There was no signage at Half Way, which I had asked for, or at Baxter’s Bridge or the Clonakilty Rd. This simply isn’t good enough and no pipe has been laid yet as far as I understand. It already has left a bad taste in the mouths of residents, traders and public representatives. Lessons were not learned from the first day,’ she added.

Cllr Coughlan also said that it would be great to recreate the rapport that they had with contractors Wills Bros during the construction of the Bandon Flood Relief Scheme.

‘It’s a two-way street where we talk to them and they talk to us. People’s backs are up now and I think we do have to muscle in and make it as smooth as possible.’

Cllr James O’Donovan (FG) queried if  the contractors had issued Cork County Council with a contract programme. 

‘We need it to know what is happening over a period. That in turn could be issued to business owners and homeowners so they know in advance that works will be taking place,’ said Cllr O’Donovan.

Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) said she herself  was caught twice in the long traffic delays.

‘I know they had given dates in advance about the works but to reduce the traffic on the main bridge to one lane and reduce it to a stop/go system was chaotic. We weren’t aware of the level of disruption that it would cause. A lot of the traffic could have been averted and nighttime works could also have helped,’ said Cllr McCarthy.

She added that a good level of communication was the one thing they had asked for before the works commenced so that they could, in turn, tell their constituents via social media.

‘It’s going to be a very long programme, and it’s going to be painful, too, with road closures, and the traders are going to be affected. We want people coming into Bandon to do their shopping.’

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said there should be an onus on the contractors to outline to them the full programme of events.

‘Hold-ups will happen and we can’t do much about that but we need to be informed and I’m calling on Ward & Burke to explain to us their methodology,’ said Cllr Murphy.

Senior executive engineer Charlie McCarthy said that they have expressed their concerns to the contractors.

‘We don’t control the scheme but we do have an input somewhat,’ said Mr McCarthy.

‘We had tried to manage traffic from the outer roads and it didn’t happen and we’ve raised that with them in a big way. They have also probably got a dose of reality about the traffic in Bandon in a way that you will never get by  traffic counts. It was an eye opener to them and they are being a bit more pro-active in trying to resolve and manage the issues.’

The continual closure of Oliver Plunkett St was also raised by councillors who said that it needs to be re-opened to allow the free flow of traffic in the town, but they were told that issues relating to the ownership of two buildings are ongoing (see panel, right).

 

Contact the contractor:

Ward & Burke Construction have a fulltime community liaison officer for the works to engage in communicating with all stakeholders on the contract. The officer is available to address any queries or concerns in relation to the works. Contact 086-7809964 or email bandon@wardandburke.com

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