Writes Ciaran Dineen
A number of residents in housing estates along Ballinrea Road have called for protests to be held in opposition to the new design over the narrowing of entrances and exits.
The new three-school campus in Ballinrea opened last week when students of the Carrigaline Gaeilscoil were welcomed to their new home. The Gaelcholaiste Carrigaline and Sonas School are expected to open soon. There has been major criticism of Cork County Council and the contractors awarded the tender who were tasked with the redesign of Ballinrea Road and Ashgrove Roundabout, given that works remain a long way off being complete, failing to meet the deadline tied in with the opening of the new campus.
The restrictions around construction due to public health measures announced in January has been the primary fault for this, but it has been pointed out that while works stopped during the third wave of the pandemic on Ballinrea Road, the school campus continued to be developed by MMD Construction. In this case, the redesign of Ballinrea Road and Ashgrove Roundabout was deemed non-essential, while the campus works were.
Upon the return to construction for all projects, work recommenced in the area, with priority given to the development of a new cycle lane and widened footpath to provide a better and safer connection to the education facility. The width of both, resulting in the narrowing of the carriageway to 6 metres, has been criticised by some residents, arguing that the road is now too narrow. However, the width of Ballinrea Road, which was agreed through Part 8 planning, open to public consultation in 2019, is compliant with the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS).
Early indications would suggest that the new ‘Active Travel’ infrastructure has had a positive impact, with many parents using the shared surface to both walk and cycle with their children to and from school. However, there has been frustration that while traffic lights have been installed, they have yet to be activated. This point has been raised by Cllr Seámus McGrath (FF) and Michael McGrath TD (FF), with Cllr McGrath indicating on a social media post that the issue had been identified, saying, “It has been agreed that Schools Wardens will be deployed at the southern point of the Ashgrove roundabout (Cork Road) and also on the Ballinrea Road side of the roundabout.
Additionally, there will be some temporary signage erected on the existing uncontrolled crossing on the eastern side. These measures are needed and thanks to the Council Engineers for agreeing to provide them.”
However, the most controversial and contested part of the redesign has by far been the change to the entrances and exits of nearby estates such as Dún Eoin, Glenwood and Carrigmore. One local resident, Diarmuid Dorney also took to social media to query the new layout, garnering a significant response as a result.
The main issue that has emerged is that cars exiting the estates are forced to cross the centre line of Ballinrea Road, and cars entering are required to almost come to a complete stop before they can make the tight turn in. The case for this design is that it forces cars to reduce their speed in an area where there will be many children crossing from one path to the other on their way to school.
It is unknown whether calls for protests will materialise, but even in the event that they do so, they are unlikely to have any significant impact on the design given that this would result in further delays to project completion, with significant pressure looming ahead of further opening of the new campus.