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Council spent Û40,000 on rectifying new Moneen lights

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Date Published: {J}

The growing cost of the so-called ‘smart lights’ at Moneenageisha Junction is set to exceed €600,000 after Galway City Council continued to spend more than €10,000 a month rectifying the chaos that followed the installation of the lights.

An internal report obtained by the Connacht Sentinel reveals that consultants and engineers known to have provided flawed data for the controversial traffic light system were nonetheless re-engaged by the cash-strapped council and paid additional sums to rectify the logjam they had created.

The document has sparked outrage among a number of city councillors, who have described it as a “comedy of errors”, an indictment of the council’s initial planning of the junction, and “an acknowledgement of failure of the original plan”.

The cost of the signalised junction up to May 2009 when it first opened was in excess of half a million euro. However, the report from the Directorate of Transport and Infrastructure reveals that the council quickly became aware that “the system was not working very well” and causing knock-on traffic delays at adjacent junctions.

Contractors were recalled at least six times to make changes to the system between June and December last at a cost of at least €40,000. The cost of much of the renovations could not be provided by the council because work was still ongoing, and formed part of a separate contract.

Councillor Padraig Conneely has described the project as one of the worst examples of wasteful spending in the history of the council and said commuters had been treated like “guinea pigs” as the local authority proceeded with alterations to the junction on a “trial and error” basis.

“Galway City Council spent more than €100,000 on consultants and engineers to provide traffic modelling to plan the junction, and their own report shows that this advice was dysfunctional,” he said.

“Yet they still paid more money to the same consultants to remedy their own mistakes; effectively rewarding their failure to do the job properly in the first instance.”

Local councillor and resident Brian Walsh said that the signalisation of the junction had had a worsening effect on the traffic mayhem that existed when it was controlled by a roundabout.

“There has been no improvement whatsoever in the traffic flow to justify the colossal sum that the council has paid out,” he said. “The advice of the consultants involved in the original traffic modelling has to be questioned and I am not happy that additional fees were paid to the same consultants who had provided flawed advice in the first place.”

The report details how Transport Planning International (TPi) were paid to produce a traffic model and introduce a cableless fixed time plan to coordinate Moneenageisha Junction with Lough Atalia Junction in June 2009.

However, the document states that “this resulted in a less efficient junction” and longer queues on College Road and Lough Atalia Road. After just a few days, TPi were recalled and engaged to abandon the fixed time plan and to change the junctions back to their original state.

It is also reported that the original timings derived from a model produced by TPi that predicted traffic flow was quickly found to be at stark variance to the actual flow when the junction opened in May. This caused “longer queues and delay for vehicles passing through the junction than was predicted”.

Elmore Group, who had been paid €73,321 under the original contract, was subsequently re-engaged to make alterations to the timings of the signals at a further cost of €5,517.50.

The series of admissions of such difficulties dealing with traffic chaos following the opening of the junction conflicts with information provided by the city council at the time, according to Cllr Conneely.

“This totally vindicates my criticism of the junction, which I expressed in a letter to the City Manager last July. His response denied any difficulties peculiar to Moneenageisha and contained no indication that the council was in the middle of crisis management in relation to the junction as we now know it was.”

Director of Services Ciaran Hayes said that the scale of the Moneenageisha Junction project had to be recognised and that it was always anticipated that there would be teething problems.

“This was a major undertaking at a junction that caters for over 50,000 vehicles a day and further works were always going to be required. The pre-existing roundabout was probably the greatest congestion point throughout the entire city,” he said.

Mr Hayes claimed that the traffic lights were now working “quite well” and refuted that the signalisation of the junction had added to road users’ commuting times.

 

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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