Half of Mountmellick’s main street has been closed to all traffic for most of July, to the dismay of traders, who fear a major loss of income.
Laois County Council have shut down Sarsfield and Parnell streets to through traffic for three weeks, from July 6 to 24, to carry out “urgent strengthening works” to the Convent Bridge.
The 200 year old masonry bridge carries large volumes of traffic and commercial trucks travelling between the west and Dublin.
It is to be reinforced with an inner concrete slab to spread the impact of trucks.
The street closure affects over a dozen shops and businesses on Sarsfield and Parnell Streets, including an undertaker’s, credit union, and community arts centre, which is hosting events for a festival during the closure.
While pedestrians can still access the street, traders fear a loss to business.
Con Farrell is chairman of the Business Mountmellick group.
While accepting that the work is necessary, he says traders are still “very upset”.
“There was very little notice given, and no notice given in general to the town. It is tough enough to stay in business in Mountmellick, everyone is barely surviving. It is incentives that people need,” he told the Leinster Express.
An ‘S.O.S’ notice on social media by O’Horáin’s shop is asking for customer support.
“Despite the remedial work, the businesses remain open. Please do not forget us. This work will gravely affect us,” their post reads.
They query why work is finishing at 5pm when daylight lasts until 10am, and the heavy traffic using the bridge.
“No wonder the bridge is damaged. Such a pity we never got that ring road when the funds were in place. The town is destroyed with the volume of traffic for which it was never designed,” the shop writes.
St Joseph’s Catholic Church is also on the road, and Parish Priest Fr Micheal Murphy has confirmed that funerals will be detoured via the N80 Portlaoise road.
“We will go around the other way and follow the traffic plan,” Fr Murphy said.
All traffic coming from the M7 towards the west is being routed around to the N80 Portlaoise road, past St Vincent’s Hospital , several housing estates, and a playground.
Mr Farrell believes the extra traffic routed around to Irishtown is a danger.
“Traffic is stuck there, and there is no regulation of it. It has become very hard to turn right on to the Portlaoise road, it is already a dangerous corner,” he said.
He wants compensation offered for loss of trade.
“How are businesses going to be compensated for their loss of business? I know they are finding it tough already and now the road is closed for at least three weeks,” the businessman said.
The council say they waited until schools were out to do the work, necessary because trucks weighing up to 46 tonnes are now permitted on Irish roads.
“The bridge was not designed to carry modern traffic volumes,” the council say.