Public representatives are seeking an urgent meeting with a toll company which manages a section of the M8 in an effort to ease traffic gridlock in a provincial town off the motorway linking Cork and Dublin.
Thousands of mainly toll-dodging motorists continue to travel through the busy town of Fermoy to avoid paying levies.
As a result, lengthy tailbacks are common, especially at peak travel periods and particularly on Friday evenings in the north Cork town.
County councillors also claim motorists, familiar with the town’s layout, are using ‘rat-runs’ to beat traffic queues and concerns have been raised of “speeding through housing estates full of children”.
Cork County Council engineers conceded they do not, on their own, have a solution to the problem which has become more acute in recent months.
The officials’ comments came after Cllr Frank O’Flynn asked them if they could improve traffic flow, particularly, at the Beechfield junction on the northern side of the town.
Executive engineer Brendan O’Gorman said 16,000 vehicles daily pass through the junction, in a town with just under 7,000 people.
“The only logical way to improve traffic flow is to reduce the volumes coming through the town by the introduction of weight and axle restrictions at certain times of the day,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“However, this is not practical for a rural town like Fermoy and is not recommended,” he also advised
“It must be remembered that there is a motorway around the town and consequently a bypass, but people still choose to avoid the tolled road and queue through the town.
“This is a personal choice and not one that the (council) executive can solve,” he added.
Cllr O’Flynn, however, noted that motorists in queues on the northside of the town regularly cut through densely-populated housing estates on Pike Road and then into Rathealy Road to beat some of the traffic queues.
Both he and Cllr Noel McCarthy said the speed of some of the vehicles travelling through some areas was “frightening”.
They said it was of even more concern that HGV drivers were also using the short-cut.
Mr O’Gorman said councillors would have to locate the funding out of their budget of they wanted traffic calming measures introduced on the rat-runs.
He said the council could bring in mobile, automated, speed check warning signs as a deterrent and the gardaí should also be asked to carry out speed checks.
“There is still a huge amount of traffic coming through town. We have to come up with a solution. The whole town is suffering from this gridlock,” Cllr McCarthy said.
He proposed the council seek an urgent meeting with the public-private partnership company, Direct Route, which runs the tolled area of the M8 between Watergrasshill and Fermoy.
Cllr McCarthy said Direct Route was also suffering losses from drivers dodging the tolls and there had to be a solution found.
Cllr O’Flynn, chairman of the municipal council agreed, along with other municipal district colleagues.
Cllr McCarthy said that they should also talk to haulage organisations to see what could be done to keep HGVs out of the town.
While car drivers are charged a toll of €1.90, HGVs with a gross weight exceeding 3,500kg and with four or more axles are charged €6.90 per journey.
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