BY JACKIE KEOGH
A REVISED traffic management system leading to the new Skibbereen Community School at Gortnacloghy has been given the green light.
Council engineers confirmed that Cumnor Construction of Blarney began work on the project in May and was recently completed, at a cost of more than €300,000.
Senior executive engineer with Cork County Council, Liam Dromey, said the project was necessary to improve access to the new school.
The system involves creating a two-way traffic lane from the Baltimore Road roundabout up to the junction at the Market Street bridge.
Mr Dromey said: ‘The project involved the extension of the Market Street bridge and the installation of traffic lights at Market Street and the newly reconfigured Gortnacloghy link road junction.’ The engineer, who has responsibility for road design, confirmed that the project was completed in consultation with the gardai, Bus Eireann and the school authorities.
Trevor Hegarty of Costcutters shop and the adjacent petrol station, which is located at the new junction, told The Southern Star he has invested substantially in his business to meet a likely increase in customer demand.
Trevor said he sees the traffic changes as being ‘a big advantage because it provides more access from Castletownshend and Baltimore. And, as any petrol station owner will tell you, increased traffic is always good for business.’
Across the road, the manager of Drinagh EuroSpar, Gordon Benn, said the changes in traffic flow will make it easier for motorists to access the supermarket, coffee shop and pharmacy, but getting out could present a difficulty because motorists will have to cross a lane of traffic.
‘Before they only had to look in one direction, up Market Street, but it is hoped that the traffic lights – which are to be installed in three locations at the newly constructed junction, adjacent to Trevor Hegarty’s store and leading to Gortnacloghy and the new secondary school – will help the situation.’
Gordon pointed out that there are not that many sets of traffic lights in Skibbereen town – just the pedestrian crossing lights at the Post Office, Skibbereen Library and Cork Road – so they are an unknown quantity.
‘There will be a significant increase in the volume of traffic. It’s hard, at this stage, to quantify it, but all of the students – including those being driven by their parents – will have to pass our door,’ he said.
‘We have yet to see the system in operation, but we hope it will be good for business in terms of access, as well as catering for the increased number of students who will be dropping into the store for their lunch.’
Gordon said he is aware that there is a long-term plan to provide a by-pass road connecting the new school with Cork Road, but until that is built, all of the traffic will be converging on Market Street.
The school has capacity for 900 pupils with a figure close to 800 moving in this September, but with so many students now driving their own cars, there is likely to be a strong demand for parking spaces in the vicinity.
It is understood that 120 parking spaces will be provided inside the school grounds, as well as disabled parking bays, and a drop-off area for the buses travelling to the school each day.
‘All of this,’ said Gordon, ‘is hypothetical until it becomes operational, so I guess we will have to wait and see. But the real good news in all of this is that the new school is fantastic and I’m happy to say I have two boys going there myself.’
The store manager also commented on the fact that this has been ‘a particularly good summer in Skibbereen. Traffic was heavy and business was good, which meant some delays, but to be fair, some of that was probably caused by the roadworks themselves, which were necessary.’
Two years ago, Drinagh doubled the size of its coffee shop because it was so busy throughout the day, but with a horde of students likely to descend from the start of September, Gordon said: ‘We’ll have to up our game once again.’
Gordon welcomed the fact that a new pedestrian crossing and improved footpaths in Market Street will allow people to cross the road in safety.
Meanwhile, Mr Dromey advised the public to be aware of the changed traffic arrangements and to ‘exercise caution in using the new system’.