Dáil debates

Thursday, 12 October 2006

Adjournment Debate

Traffic Management.

2:00 pm

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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I would like the Minister for Finance to explain the OPW's new transport policy for the Phoenix Park. The residential community surrounding the park is concerned about the new transportation and traffic plans that the Minister and the OPW have for the park.

This 1,750 acre park, the largest public park in any capital city in Europe, is a wonderful amenity for the people of Dublin. The purpose of the new plan is to reduce through traffic and to make the park more pedestrian friendly. Unfortunately, the new proposals are such that residents fear they will have the opposite effect.

Chesterfield Avenue bisects the park from Castleknock Gate to Parkgate Street and the quays. The new proposals will introduce a bus service for the first time, with 20 new buses on the route. There are no proposals, however, for a quality bus corridor. Consequently, the new service will only add to existing peak hour traffic, making Chesterfield Avenue a major commuter feeder route into the city.

The changes to the other roads in the park will make them unidirectional, with a one way entrance from west and north and a one way exit to the east through Cabra, the North Circular Road and Parkgate Street, directing traffic towards the city every morning. If the OPW is serious about traffic reduction, it would introduce a bus lane and restrict commuter traffic at peak traffic hours through the park.

Outside the park, Blackhorse Avenue in Cabra will undoubtedly experience a considerably greater volume of traffic, as will the North Circular Road, Infirmary Road, Prussia Street and Aughrim Street, which already have high levels of traffic.

I hope the Minister of State can assure us that the report that has just been published will be open for discussion and amendment with the local authority traffic management office, with public representatives and local communities around the park who will be affected by the new changes and that this will all be done before any action is taken regarding the implementation of the report's recommendations.

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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In mid-March of this year, the Commissioners of Public Works commissioned a traffic management study for the Phoenix Park and the following advertisement was published on 15 April 2006:

PHOENIX PARK TRAFFIC STUDY

The Phoenix Park is Ireland's premier National Historic Park, and Europe's largest enclosed city park. It is widely acknowledged as a valuable amenity resource and a major environmental lung for Dublin City. On the other hand there are competing demands arising from increased development and traffic congestion in Dublin City. As a result the Phoenix Park faces a number of challenges in ensuring it remains a sustainable, highly valued and safe recreational amenity.

Against this background the Commissioners of Public Works have commissioned Messrs. Faber Maunsell, Consulting Engineers to carry out a comprehensive traffic study of the Phoenix Park. The study will address the growing pressures on existing Phoenix Park infrastructure and develop proposals designed to protect the Phoenix Park and its users, both now and for the future, while making every effort to facilitate through traffic.

The study will analyse current and future commuting patterns, road safety issues and traffic management proposals. It will examine the potential for public traffic and road safety improvements. Proposals will be made for long-term management and monitoring of traffic in the Phoenix Park, in keeping with the objectives of the Phoenix Park Management Plan.

The study involves an extensive public consultation process with interested parties, which will take place over the coming weeks.

This advertisement sets out the background to the study, which included a public consultation process. A total of 26 submissions from the public were received——

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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And ignored.

5:00 pm

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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——and in addition to that, stakeholders in the park, the local authorities, the Garda authorities, the Dublin Transportation Office and the Office of Public Works were consulted.

In formulating the study therefore, Messrs. Faber Maunsell took a wide range of views into account and a firm of environmental consultants, Messrs. ERM Limited, was also engaged to assess the proposed measures contained in the study from an environmental protection perspective, a vital consideration in the context of this national historic park.

On completion of the study earlier this month, a number of presentations on the study were arranged on 10 and 11 October for the parties outlined above who contributed to the process. This included a presentation to resident associations on the perimeter of the Phoenix Park, which I understand Deputy Costello may have attended.

The commissioning of an independent traffic management study for the Phoenix Park was necessary on a number of counts: to protect this national historic park from growing traffic pressures, to ensure the amenities of the park are not degraded, to ensure public access to the park and its amenities is enhanced, to significantly reduce risks to the public arising from traffic movements, to collate a range of proposals to achieve these objectives and to enhance public awareness on the need for these measures.

The commissioners are satisfied that positive intervention to address these challenges is absolutely essential and that the "do nothing" approach is not an option. Following the recent consultation process, the commissioners are considering the phased implementation of a number of the principal measures proposed in the report.