LIMERICK City and County Council management announced this Monday that the €9 million O’Connell Street Revitalisation Project is just two weeks away from completion.
But if they were expecting an outpouring of praise at the monthly Metropolitan District meeting, they were disappointed as councillors expressed strong views about the quality of the finish and delays in completing the work.
Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely was so disillusioned that she proposed the removal of the bus lane on O’Connell Street and the reinstatement of a two lane traffic management system on the city’s main thoroughfare.
Her motion would mean a redesign of O’Connell Street just as the project finally reaches the end of the road.
Cllr Kiely said there was no crossing point at Bedford Row and Thomas Street, and that when people are standing and waiting to cross, they are standing on a cycle lane. She was firmly of the view that a pedestrian crossing was needed in the interest of public safety.
“The bus lane is used as a car park most days. It is down to one lane of traffic most days because of illegal parking. It is like a parking plaza at the moment,” she added.
The City East representative also took aim at design flaws on Patrick Street near Penney’s.
“Again the public do cross there and and when they do, they are standing on a cycle lane. This is down to design.
“Pedestrian safety should be paramount, and it’s because of the NTA’s (National Transport Authority) blatant interference – the same NTA who don’t have local knowledge or even local places name.”
Cllr Kiely told the executive that she would be happy to withdraw her motion if commitments were given for a crossing point at Bedford Row.
Seconding the proposal Cllr Dan McSweeney (FG) said that the 400-metre stretch of bus route on O’Connell Street was being used as a car park.
“We don’t have the frequency of buses to make good use of the bus lane. It is of no benefit. How is it going to be policed?” he asked.
Cllr McSweeney also called on council management to install bicycle traffic lights on O’Connell Street.
Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan broadly supported the motion, but expressed regret for ever voting to approve the project.
In hindsight, he was of the view that it had been “rammed down their throats”.
Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan said that she didn’t support the motion, but expressed surprise that they now found themselves in this position.
Fianna Fáil councillor Azad Talukder highlighted the huge amount of negativity on social media surrounding the project. He also raised safety concerns for blind and visually impaired people in navigating the new road system.
Green Party councillor Saša Novak raised an objection to the motion and warned that this was not the right way to go.
Executive Architect Seamus Hanrahan warned that Cllr Kiely’s motion could mean looking at the redesign of O’Connell Street and having to go through the Part 8 process. He agreed to take any design issues back to the design team and pointed out that the contract was now moving to the handover stage.
Issues such as illegal parking would be immediately tackled by the Council on completion of works.
Cllr Kiely admitted that she was not serious about the motion but felt the need to put it on the agenda out of sheer frustration.
Mr Hanrahan said he would revert to the design team on the matter of a crossing.