THE air has been blue over Clonakilty in recent weeks – and it’s nothing to do with the heatwave either, but rather the ongoing traffic restrictions on the relief road that’s making motorists and businesses increasingly frustrated.
Part of the OPW’s €10m Flood Relief Scheme, an unpopular stop/go traffic light system will continue there for another two to three weeks, with delays of anything up to 40 minutes experienced at evening rush hour and walls of traffic blocking access to businesses on the route.
Traffic coming from Rosscarbery direction has no option, but to crawl along the bypass. Motorists coming from Cork can go through the town, but there’s widespread congestion. Many locals are diverting through Shannonvale, but those who can, are avoiding the area entirely.
Everyone stresses that the works are a massively positive thing, that’s not in dispute; however questions have been raised over their timing; the sequencing of the traffic lights and the communication between contractors and businesses.
Noel White of Texaco Daybreak on the Convent Road is in business 20 years this year and said the works have put him into ‘survival mode.’
‘My business depends on passing trade and that isn’t coming in with a wall of traffic outside my forecourt. My local customers are contacting me to say they’re avoiding the area completely. It’s been very hard.
‘What should have been a bumper summer has turned into a case of survival mode. Based on last year’s figures, we are down 25% some weeks,’ he said.
Stressing he wasn’t standing in the way of the flood works in any way, and acknowledging that his business will bounce back, he is calling for better communication to be in place between contractors Ward and Burke and businesses.
‘I just want to give a warning to others when the works move on and to learn from the mistakes that have already been made,’ he said as works move to Ring and on the stretch near Lisselane Golf Club later this month.
Traffic lights were also in place at the entrance to Scally’s SuperValu for a few days last week. Eoghan Scally acknowledged that the timing of the works weren’t ‘ideal’ but said ‘it’s in the best interests of the town long term so we just need to keep going. The tailbacks on the roundabout are causing significant stress for commuters and customers alike - especially in the fine weather, but we’re lucky to have an entrance at the rear of the shopping centre which is alleviating some of the stress.’
Ger Harte of Harte’s Spar Supermarket on the bypass also called for greater communication. He’s had to erect signs himself asking motorists stuck in traffic to keep clear of the yellow box by his car park.
‘Updates should be daily – if we know what’s happening we can deal with it better. As it is the works are negatively impacting business as people are avoiding the area or not stopping.’
He questioned the timing of the works saying that off season would have been more appropriate and also suggested the sequencing of the lights should be changed to take into account that 100% of traffic coming from Skibbereen direction (who have already encountered delays in Leap due to road resurfacing) have to use the bypass.
John Paul Hayes, Ward and Burke community liaison officer, said they had been on the receiving end of some verbal abuse, due to the traffic delays.
‘But outside of a few snags, such as losing three days when a machine broke, it’s moving along,’ he said.
In response to trader’s suggstions, he said they allowed twice the amount of time on traffic lights on the Skibbereen side; but said that environmental restrictions mean they can only do river works between May 1st and September 31st.
He stressed he was always available at the end of a phone to discuss any concerns.
* He’s on 086-1805875; [email protected] or see www.clonakiltyfrs.ie.