Residents cheered last night as a controversial public transport plan that would have seen parts of some of their front gardens along one of Cork’s busiest roads sacrificed for bus and bike lanes was shot down.
City councillors voted against proceeding with the first phase of the €4m Wilton Corridor project, shelving plans to widen a section of the Wilton Road to six lanes by taking up to seven metres off some front gardens along the western side of the road.
The city council said the plan, the first BusConnects-style project in Cork City to affect front gardens, was designed to create inbound and outbound bus and cycle lanes to deliver transport infrastructure to meet current and future travel needs.
The road feeds many large employers and institutions including Cork University Hospital, UCC, CIT, and the Model Farm Road Business Park.
The route has been identified as a crucial link in what will become one of the city’s most important public transport corridors under the National Transport Authority’s (NTA) Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Study (CMATS).
Some €200m in Government funding has already been earmarked by CMATS to deliver over 100kms of BusConnects-style bus lanes in Cork over the next decade.
However, the Wilton scheme faced stiff opposition from local residents.
Residents’ spokesman John Bowman described the vote as a “great victory for reason and democracy”.
“We look forward to a meaningful seat at the table once Wilton comes back on the agenda,” he said.
“Right now we want to catch our breath and say a big ‘thank you’ to the councillors who listened to us and voted with their heads and hearts.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Fergal Dennehy said the project would bring traffic closer to peoples’ homes, and the benefits of the scheme would not outweigh the loss of the quality of life to homeowners.
Fine Gael councillor Derry Canty said he couldn’t support a project which was just “one piece of a jigsaw”, while Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Kelleher said the project would do nothing to address traffic pinch-points.
But Green Party councillors Colette Finn and Oliver Moran who, before his election, led the debate in favour of the St Patrick’s Street afternoon car ban, said the city needs kilometres of “such transformative solutions”.
“If we are going to make the transition to a sustainable public transport system, we will have to make such decisions,” said Mr Moran. “We need the council to get behind this.”
Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould said councillors must tackle such issues.
However, most councillors criticised the isolated nature of the works which they said would just shift traffic pinch-points and bottlenecks elsewhere.
They also expressed concerns about the absence of funding guarantees to deliver similar upgrades along the rest of the busy transport corridor over the coming years.
The city’s head of transport, Gerry O’Beirne, said the scheme is justified in its own right, given the volume of traffic and the inadequacy of existing junctions.
He also said that as funding becomes available — as has happened in the Mahon and Blackrock areas — other proposals for the Wilton corridor will come before council.
He said it was ultimately a decision for council, but he said it would be a pity for councillors not to avail of opportunities to make improvements where they can.
Following a lengthy debate, councillors voted 16-8 against the project. Similar but much larger NTA road widening
BusConnects plans in Dublin are also meeting opposition.The NTA has said that householders in the capital who lose part of their front garden will get compensation of around €25,000 on average.
Most would lose two to three metres of their gardens.The massive bus corridor project will involve the construction of 230km of continuous bus priority lanes and 200km of cycle tracks, along 16 core bus corridor routes.