“In an effort to avoid getting caught in traffic, cars are also stopping at locations that weren’t designed for parking and that’s a danger in itself.”
“I’ve been contacted by parents and residents about this problem. They and teachers in the new secondary school are also very frustrated about traffic delays in the general Summerhill area and potential safety issues.”
The fact that the only access route to the school is via the same junction as the Summerhill Centre — which includes Tesco, Lidl, a busy doctors’ surgery, a bank, and other businesses — has created a bottleneck most weekday mornings and afternoons.
The issue is largely confined to peak times before and after school, particularly in bad weather, which multiplies the number of cars dropping off and picking up; often with chaotic consequences.
Deputy Deasy says the resultant traffic tailbacks are also causing considerable inconvenience for people living in nearby estates such as Moonlaun and Meadowbrook trying to get to work in the morning. Residents are also worried about the effectiveness of existing traffic calming and signage, with many people using Sweetbriar/Moonlaun as a shortcut.
“What’s happened here was inevitable. You’re talking about a school of around 1,000 students and 100 staff, many coming from a wide catchment with no transport other than by car when it’s raining.
“Combine this with the traffic associated with the Holy Cross primary school a short distance away — another 700 pupils and teachers all using the same road network — and it was bound to happen.
“However, people who raised concerns were dismissed. I contacted the council to express my reservations about the traffic arrangements back in March 2014, asking if a revised layout could be put in place instead of traffic lights before the school opened. But I never received a response.
“What you have now is a build-up both on the Ring Road and also coming from the town centre, with the roadway between the Holy Cross Church and the traffic lights extremely narrow.”
These snarl-ups are most severe coming up to 9am, Monday to Friday — but with the Tesco car park effectively being used as a second collection point, there’s a major build-up at these lights after school as well.
“In an effort to avoid getting caught in traffic, cars are also stopping at locations that weren’t designed for parking and that’s a danger in itself,” Deasy says. “I’ve been told of near-collisions, with motorists taking a chance and ducking out blindsided into, and through, queues of cars.
The Fine Gael TD adds: “The council seems to have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach. But if you’re providing for a school of that scale, safe access should be paramount.
“I’ve looked at the location closely and think roundabouts would have been a better solution to begin with. It’s my understanding that the original plans for the Summerhill development included a roundabout system.
“I contacted the council again a number of weeks ago to survey traffic patterns and also the infrastructure leading to and from Árdscoil na Mara with a view to taking immediate remedial steps — not just on the grounds of improved traffic flows but also in terms of health and safety.
“It was entirely predictable that the current system clearly wouldn’t be capable of taking the volume of traffic, and the situation is becoming unsafe,” Deasy says.
He thinks any potential to provide a managed drop-off area should also be explored in an effort to address haphazard parking and driving in the immediate vicinity of the school campus.