Well, it hasn’t been long. Like all Irish politicians, I find myself reduced to writing about the State of the Road.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The particular roads in question here are one Skerries Road which passes from Loughshinny into Rush and the Palmer Road which kind of circles around from the Skerries Road and goes into Rush a different way. The trouble is that the Palmer Road is, indeed, a road…most of the time. But there is a curious part in the middle bit of the Palmer Road, where it is more like Palmer Track. It is here that, no matter what side of the road you come from two lines of pavement suddenly becomes one very tiny lane, with seven or eight spots where you have to pull over to let oncoming traffic through. There was also until recently, a bit with a truly impressive number of potholes. We will return to this.
But first, a trip down memory lane. I remember the first time I drove down Palmer Track: it was so rustic and quaint, the little ‘thanks for letting me through’ neighbour-wave and being stuck behind a tractor brought back the nostalgia of my youth. And Ireland is just so beautiful, I could probably drive down Palmer Track 10 or 15 times before I began to curse it.
Having gotten over that relatively brief honeymoon, my curses have only been added to those of many residents, especially the ones who are trying to get to the GAA and local Gaelscoil, which are both located right in the most inaccessible part of the Palmer Road/Track. Additionally, it has occurred to everyone in Rush some time ago that the entire town, which now comprises circa 10 000 people, is curiously dependent on the Skerries Road, as the only actual road that goes into the town from the north side.
If anything were to ever happen to the Skerries Road…
Of course, I had no reason to believe that anything would happen to the Skerries Road, but I did raise a complaint on Fix My Street about the potholes in front of the GAA a few months ago. Not too long after that, those potholes were paved over. My suspicions were immediately aroused. Those potholes had been there forever, and I pride myself on having very few illusions.
Turns out that the potholes were paved over because…the Skerries Road was about to be closed down completely for SIX WEEKS. This is due to construction of the sewage pumping stations around Rush, which will one day (I am told by the end of the year) stop the town’s raw sewage from being pumped right out into the sea. No longer will Rush’s two, quite stunning, beaches be the sole preserve of foreign tourists who have no clue what they are jumping into. Needless to say, pretty much everyone in Rush is happy to be having this sewage issue dealt with, although it is long, long overdue. But, as usual, the solution has not been accompanied by any joined up thinking.
Palmer Track needed to become Palmer Road, anyway. A town of 10 000 people that is expanding needs at least two ways in, plus it is unsafe for kids to be walking and cycling to the GAA and the school. Indeed, a kid who couldn’t have been more than 12, once raised this issue with me. One would have thought that around about the time someone decided that the Skerries Road would have to be closed to accommodate the sewage-related construction, they would have also have had the good sense to kill two birds with one stone and finally widen the problematic stretch of Palmer Road, which is, at the end of the day, only about 500 metres worth of road, passing between fields. But they didn’t. Nor did they give anyone adequate notice of the impending closure of the Skerries Road.
This is just one more example of the near terminal lack of planning that sees us lurching from one expensive crisis to the next. First no provision was made to handle the sewage produced by a greatly expanded town, and then once that was finally set in motion, it only set off another crisis in traffic management that had been brewing in neglect for years.
It is clichee, but when change happen, it is either an opportunity or a crisis, depending on one’s attitude. Instead of using the sewage construction and road closure as an opportunity to widen the Palmer Road, it has been turned into a crisis by mismanagement and neglect.
At the public information night held in Rush Community Centre about a week before the Skerries Road was closed, I brought up the point that the Palmer Road should have been widened repeatedly, only to be told that it was ‘not possible’ to widen the Palmer Road/Track. And, I mean, literally, not possible. They weren’t trying to tell me that they had tried and encountered some previously unknown insurmountable obstacle. No, it just apparently was not possible. My inquiries as to how other roads were built, how, for example, the M50 was built were met with bemusement. I was also told at the time that it would not be possible to install a traffic control light in the area, but I see that one has since been installed. Since that proved possible, I have no doubt that someday, widening a road that runs between two fields may be a challenge that can be overcome by science. One can only hope.
I will certainly continue to pressure the Council and local representatives to improve roads and road safety in Fingal, as there are many areas throughout the county that are inadequately provided for.
In the meantime, I continue on my crusade for joined-up thinking and adequate planning in all areas of political life.
Addendum: Shortly after the road was closed, I was reliably informed by a commuter that everyone on the north side of Rush was missing the 33X bus in the morning, because the shuttle buses were running on a half-hour loop, instead of the constant loop I had been informed of. I complained about this vociferously to the County Council, and the shuttle bus provision has now been rectified to a more liveable, although still less-than-ideal, state. You’re welcome.