Abbeyleix, traffic and a clear road ahead
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
I have always known Abbeyleix as a beautiful town rich in built heritage. Since becoming a Senator I now know it also has a vibrant community committed to protecting its living heritage while improving the quality of life for all residents.
I was in the town two weeks ago; I parked just off the main street on the opposite side to my destination – a delicious bakery and a neighbouring deli. Abbeyleix is home to many small enterprises committed to offering quality goods and services and it should be a lovely place to shop and spend time. But that day as I crossed the road, I noticed yet again the large number of HGVs which traverse the town. They make it, at times, noisy, unpleasant and potentially unsafe.
Over the last number of months I have written to the EPA and I have been in regular contact with Laois County Council. I have asked that they find out why there are so many HGVs present in the towns and also what they know about the impact these vehicles are having.
I understand that over the Summer, Nitrogen Dioxide monitoring took place and now, Laois County Council, in partnership with Kilkenny County Council, plan to conduct an origin-destination survey. I am delighted that such data is being collected and I look forward to reviewing the results.
I know there is the view that the HGVs drivers are avoiding tolls by coming off the M8. If this is the case, the collection of data through an origin-destination survey along the N77/M8/R433 is imperative. If the data demonstrates that toll avoidance is a significant cause of the HGV presence in Abbeyleix, Durrow and Cullohill, I will be airing my views strongly with the road haulier industry and with my colleague Minister Eamon Ryan as Minister for Transport.
The same applies to the air quality monitoring through the nitrogen dioxide tube study. This should provide a comprehensive picture of traffic related emissions in those areas and again I will act according to the outcome.
But first, we must collect that data.
Safety is another concern. My colleague Eamon Ryan is rolling out a very exciting ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ programme and Scoil Mhuire in Abbeyleix was a successful applicant for funding under Round 1. The NTA, along with Green-Schools and the local authority will work with the school community at a local level to make it possible for routes to the school to be safer than ever before. I will continue to support this scheme in any way I can.
As a Green Party representative, I know that we need to move people out of cars for those journeys they could walk or cycle. I see enthusiasm for this in the Abbeyleix community and am delighted to hear that a Cycling Officer will take up their new role with the County Council in September. I hope to meet with them soon after.
I am happy to say that there is regular contact between myself, my team and representatives of the Abbeyleix community and I look forward to this continuing.
I believe that it is only when we work collaboratively towards understanding the causes and effects that we can come up with a sustainable solution. I am really pleased that my questions are starting to reap responses in the form of data which will inform such collaborative action.
Above all, I am using my voice as Senator to amplify the wishes of the community in their fight to reclaim the streets from the toxic entanglement of traffic.