Concerns emerge on bypass

Dónal Nolan

Concerns are emerging in Listowel regarding the potentially negative impact of the proposed bypass of the town on trade.

Traders are growing increasingly worried that the bypass might discourage the passing tourist trade the town experiences during the summer months and drive more and more locals to head straight for Manor West and other urban shopping centres.

These are among the first concerns to be heard surrounding a project that appeared to have almost universal support when it first became a subject of public consultation in June of 2007.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII - formerly the NRA) brought the project to CPO and planning preparation stages in March. The bypass would involve 3.65km of new road to the west of Listowel over a new bridge of the River Feale, to bring traffic from near the Finuge junction on the Tralee road to the junction of the John B Keane and Ballybunion Roads.

"There is growing concern among more and more traders in town at present over the potential impact of it on trade," Fianna Fáil Cllr and town centre native Jimmy Moloney said this week.

"A substantial amount of passing tourists will stop off in Listowel and spend in the town centre. But many traders are worried now as to how we will attract these tourists - who are travelling between the big tourist destinations - into town if there's a bypass. Will they simply follow the signs to Tralee and Killarney?" he asked.

Traders are also asking if the bypass would simply encourage locals to Manor West, which many could reach without hitting any town centre.

"Traders are concerned because they simply don't know how the bypass could impact them now."

One thing is needed as a matter of urgency - a traffic management review. "This would allow us answer questions such as 'are people avoiding town because of traffic congestion', 'would the bypass make the large shopping centres more accessible?' and so on."

Congestion problems in Listowel do not necessarily merit the construction of a massive scheme first mooted during the boom.

"Sitting here in the Square at 5pm on Monday I am watching the traffic flowing past. Generally speaking the worst tailbacks at on a handful of Fridays but I think there is a lot we can do to address choke points around town, parking issues and so on that could have a major impact on make traffic flow better without recourse to a bypass."

Cllr Moloney is asking the TII to provide examples of similar towns that have been bypassed as part of a review of the whole rationale behind the costly project.

Meanwhile, Cllr Moloney criticised the recent visit of Transport Minister Shane Ross to Listowel as 'clandestine'.

"Listowel Municipal members were informed the Minister would not have time to meet with us prior to the visit as we had hoped in order to outline our concerns over the much-reduced road budget for the area."