Thursday, May 1, 1997

Athy's Inner Relief Road - McCarthy Area Report

I have often wondered how the men of ’98 felt as they rose in the year of rebellion to tilt against the might and power of the English Crown. Their rage and perhaps frustration can only be imagined but must be comparable to that which I feel tonight as I find myself teethering on the brink of outrage at the contents of an innocuous brown envelope which has reached me. Outrage is a term normally applied to hideous and dastardly deeds perpetrated under cover of darkness on unsuspecting folk, but it may well describe what prompts my feelings tonight.

I have just received what is described as an executive summary of Athy’s Traffic Management Study which is dated 1997 and which was prepared for Kildare County Council by McCarthy Acer Consultants Ltd. of Dublin. The five page document was prepared by the Consultants following what they described as a “Comprehensive Traffic Management Study for Athy on behalf of Kildare County Council.” The requirements of the study as commissioned by the County Council interalia required the consultants “to validate the 1975 traffic plan for Athy”.

In case you had forgotten, that plan produced in the days before EEC largesse began to transform the road network in Ireland, suggested two new alternative roads for Athy - an Inner Relief Road and an Outer Relief Road. The far sighted Councillors of the day opted for the Inner Relief Road option, but sure wouldn’t they, bearing in mind the quality of Council decision making in those days which for instance failed to secure Whites Castle for the town when offered in exchange for a Council house.

So it was that in 1996 McCarthy and Associates rode into town to start their “Comprehensive Traffic Study”, the outcome of which could never be in doubt. After all, did not their clients Kildare County Council long ago pin their colours to the mast insofar as the Inner Relief Road was concerned. Did we really expect that McCarthy would make a recommendation which would not find favour with it’s clients. I am not of course in any way impugning their professional integrity. Not for one minute would I be so presumptuous, but I am open to persuasion. However, lets return to the traffic study itself. We find that a survey programme was undertaken on a Friday and a Saturday in September 1996 which disclosed that 15% - 20% of traffic on the Main Street was through traffic. The Report also claims that 50% - 60% of traffic entering Athy has either their origin or destination in the town. Into what black hole is the remaining 35% - 20% of the traffic disappearing ? Have I missed something Mr. McCarthy, or is there an explanation which is not apparent on a reading of the executive summary ?

Incidentally, for whom is the five page summary prepared for - hard of reading Councillors or hard pressed Council Officials with limited attention spans ? I have asked for a copy of the full report, but don’t hold your breath while I await a response. Once I got over the shock of reading of Rat Running in Mount Hawkins [I kid you not], I was ready to pass on to the Council’s, sorry Consultants, proposals for managing Athy’s traffic up to the year 2016. A number of proposals were assessed from the “do nothing” to “outer by-pass” to “inner roads with one-way system” to “inner relief two-way system”. McCarthy and Associates do not sit on the fence, especially if it is propped up by Kildare County Council and no doubt to your surprise and mine, they announced their preferred strategy as the Inner Relief Road for two-way traffic ! So there you are, Kildare County Council were right after all and the rest of us were wrong.

“But why an Inner Relief Road”, I hear you say. To the independent consultants who looked at this matter without any prior knowledge of the County Council’s preference I put the same question. The answer is worthy of a consultant. “It will enable existing roads in the town centre to be managed in a way that the environment and vitality of the town centre would be enhanced through the creation of partially pedestrianised areas within Duke Street and Leinster Street”. There you are - I couldn’t put it any better myself. Oh there’s more. “The aim of the Traffic Management Plan is to improve the attractiveness of Athy town centre and the completion of the Inner Relief Road will play a major part in achieving these aims. Facilities for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists will be improved, as will environmental conditions. The civic amenity of Athy will be enhanced and the town centre will become a safer and more pleasant place to work, shop and visit”. Well it must be true, after all, these consultants are highly qualified men and if they say that running two roads through the center of the town and keeping all traffic within the town center will create a safer, pleasant place to shop, who are we to disagree ?

It is quite obvious that all the road engineers and consultants in England and Ireland who have favoured outer relief roads and an appropriate measure to make town centers safer and more attractive are wrong. Mr. McCarthy, how can I thank you for letting me see the errors of my ways. You are a genius with words, but incidentally, why did it take so long to produce the finished article ? Was there an awful lot of consultation involved ? You know how it is ! County Council Officials can be difficult when the Messiah approaches with a message which is not in accordance with the tablets of stone.

Where’s me pike ? I smell rebellion in the air ! The Americans had their McCarthy era. We’re about to start on our own. Maybe the 200th Anniversary of the 1798 rebellion can be suitably commemorated on the Square in Athy with more floggings at the triangle. Have we got any likely candidates you can suggest ?

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