Computer generated image of the bridge from The Peace Park
It has been called many things — the inner relief road, the central access scheme, Kilkenny’s third river crossing — but whatever it is named, it is now imminent.
Welcome or not, Kilkenny is to have a modern river crossing that will deal with the traffic management issues that afflict Green’s Bridge and John’s Bridge every day.
Is this good news? It depends on your perspective.
From a traffic management point of view, this is indeed good news. For anyone who travels into Kilkenny city for work in the early mornings, this sounds like good news because currently there is no way to avoid the traffic jams over Green’s Bridge, John’s Bridge, or the Castle Road. If you begin work between 8.30am and 9.30am in the city centre, you cannot avoid the bumper to bumper traffic and it is frustrating for motorists and clogs up the city for pedestrians and cyclists too.
A refuse truck stops outside the Rivercourt Hotel at the foot of John’s Bridge twice a week between eight and nine and traffic cannot pass for at least 10 minutes while the collectors walk into the premises, collect the bins and empty them. All the time the traffic builds up on John Street...
So there are definitely pros and cons to the news that the new bridge and road have been given the go-ahead.
Green’s Bridge is hardly able to manage the traffic, which is forced to become one-way if a HGV needs to cross and although the ringroad takes a lot of the heavy traffic, this is the only viable route for brewery traffic or traffic that needs to traverse from the Freshford Road to the Castlecomer Road.
So alleviating these traffic problems will be part of the pros of the new route.
However, the cons have more to do with the medieval aspect of Kilkenny city. Many involved in the maintenance of our cultural heritage in the city are very much opposed to the contemporary structure which they believe will split the city in two and detrimentally harm the medieval fabric of our history.
Malcolm Noonan is the only member of the council vehemently opposing the project but he is adamant that it is not in the best interests of the city’s heritage.
It is a difficult argument with two very relevant points. Do you move with the times and try and make access to the city easier for people, therefore maintaining our High Street trade and linking it with suburban shopping centres? Or do you try and maintain the unique heritage that we are so lucky to still have in the Marble City and that others envy? We live in a stunningly beautiful city because we have managed to juxtapose old and new so well to date. Economically we would have nothing without it, as tourism is our biggest selling point and it is statistically proven that people come to Kilkenny for cultural and heritage reasons more than any other.
So what is the answer? I think that maybe we need to continue doing what we have done to date — that is to continue with sympathetic modernisation of the city while maintaining the historical fabric that we have all learned to live happily within. Don’t change what is not entirely necessary but make things modern enough so that people won’t shop elsewhere during these difficult times. We have to have an accessible convenient city in order to entice people to our excellent businesses and services and if that means a little bit of modernisation — so be it.
It has to be better to have a city that is alive and booming rather than a pretty, historical, city but with nobody able to make a living, which will ultimately result in the demise of the local economy.