Road revamp crucial to schools

CASH strapped Laois County Council will have to splash out on upgrading three critical road junctions, one of which is already at capacity, before two multi million euro Portlaoise school projects proceed to construction phase next year.

CASH strapped Laois County Council will have to splash out on upgrading three critical road junctions, one of which is already at capacity, before two multi million euro Portlaoise school projects proceed to construction phase next year.

Fine Gael Deputy Charlie Flanagan told the ‘Leinster Express’ he met with senior officials from the Department of Education & Skills (DoES) and they revealed that plans for the schools were ‘on target’.

And considering road upgrades were necessary to facilitate extra traffic to the Summerhill campus, he explained that Laois County Council ‘not withstanding the current budgetary constraints they are operating in will have to prioritise the upgrades’.

Deputy Flanagan said: “The need to upgrade the junctions will come as no surprise to Laois County Council as when the site was designated for education purposes it was obvious that road upgrading would be necessary.”

A Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA), commissioned by the Department in relation to the Gaelscoil Phortlaoise, Portlaoise Educate Together NS and Maryborough NS ‘rapid schools’ development on the Southern Circular Road, reveals that the Block Road / N80 is at capacity in its existing state before the development traffic is even added.

The TIA report, produced by Malone O’Regan, further adds.: “The inclusion of the additional traffic created by the proposed development pushes the Block Road / N80 well over capacity for the opening year 2013.”

Less than a kilometre away from the 3.89 hectare ‘rapid’ build project site at Downs, planning permission has also been lodged for a neighbouring development at Aghnaharna and it will see three existing Portlaoise parish primary schools – Sacred Heart, Scoil Mhuire and St Paul’s – amalgamate into two new 32 classroom schools.

Considering the proximity of these two major projects, Laois County Council requested Malone O’Regan to undertake a combined TIA and this identified the need to upgrade the existing South Circular Road / N 80 and Block Road / N 80 tee junctions to two-lane roundabouts.

The roundabouts are to have ‘a minimum 28 metres inscribed circle diametre, 6m entry widths and 10m flare length’.

Further analysis of the combined TIA results indicate that the existing roundabout at Southern Circular Road / New Road (R426) ‘will require some modification to increase the capacity to an entry width of 6 metres and a flare length of 10m’.

In addition to the construction of two new roundabouts and the upgrading of another, the TIA recommends that since the number of pupils walking to school ‘is very low in the Portlaoise area’ that there was ‘scope for the implementation of a School Travel Plan with specific targets to increase walking and cycling traffic while reducing car traffic through car pooling’.

It is proposed to stagger the school opening times to have Portlaoise Educate Together School starting at 8.45am, Maryborough NS starting at 9am and Gaelscoil Phortlaoise starting at 9.15am.

A Mobility Management Framework Plan, also commissioned by the DoES, recommeded the appointment of a mobility plan co-ordinator/manager, promotion of car sharing, walking and cycling initiatives/incentives to held reduce traffic congestion.