07 Jul 2022

KILDARE OPINION: A look into the future of a rapidly-changing county Kildare

Conor McHugh gives his views

KILDARE OPINION: A look into the future of a rapidly-changing county Kildare

File photo: M7 roadworks

I read a statement the other day from the gardaí which explained that in order to install a new flyover on the M7 motorway at Osberstown the existing one would need to be removed last weekend.

There was all sorts of details about how traffic would be re-routed etc, and I made a mental note to avoid the whole of Naas as a result for the entire period.

Having seen that, and the pile-driving in operation over at the canal and the huge concrete beams being delivered to the site of the new Sallins bypass, there is no doubt that all this will be massive and life-changing for Sallins and the whole Monread and Sallins Road parts of Naas.

It will also take considerable pressure off the existing exits onto the M7 at the Naas ball and at the other end near the Bundle of Sticks roundabout.

There’s work being carried out also on the Newbridge road that will link it more directly to the M7 in both directions, which is great, because a lot of the traffic down at the roundabout was involved going from one to the other of those roads.

One thought, naturally, borrowed another, and I began to think of all the changes that have occurred to Kildare in my 44 years and how it has been changed utterly as a result.

What was then, quaintly, known as the Naas Dualcarriageway was the only roadway in the county with more than one lane, and it was never particularly full, or at least not in the sense that we understand that term now.

Ubiquitous car ownership was not a thing — quite a few of us got the bus or the train for big journeys. And speaking of big trips, I can still recall traffic lights on the Naas dual carriageway, and, in the other direction, waiting for what seemed like years in far flung places like Kildare town, Monasterevin and Kilcock.

So now, after perhaps 25 years of rapid expansion as everywhere you regarded as a pretty nondescript field became a housing estate or a ring road, we have this latest edition of Kildare, and we’re starting to see how, for all the expansion and planning involved, considerable elements of it are starting to grind to a halt.

Certain things like traffic have simply become too much. So what will the county look like in another two or three decades?

There will be more houses and apartments and more people living here. This is inevitable because Kildare is right beside Dublin and there will never be a time when people don’t want to live near the city.

But as the population becomes greater, it will in many ways become more dense. The trend with planning gurus these days is to avoid, as much as possible, the continued expansion of housing and to get better at using the bits in the middle, in particular those areas nearer or indeed in town centres that haven’t already been used.

Of necessity, a greater degree of thought will go into what actually makes our towns and villages pleasant places to live. Sheer numbers will force this conversation.

The inevitable consequence of that conversation is the realisation that cars, which will all silent by then, will have to be deprioritised in favour of other forms of transport.

Whether any action follows on from that particular thought process remains to be seen.

I suspect that it will require a generational and long overdue changing of the guard, such is the entrenchment of the car-first approach to transport now.

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