Provision of a Ballyclare bypass road is of “critical importance” to the town in terms of regeneration and future development.
That’s the conclusion of a major transport study commissioned by the Department for Social Development.
Plans for a relief road linking Templepatrick Road, Doagh Road and Rashee Road have been in the pipeline for several years. However, the £25m scheme was shelved following the collapse of housing development firm Holm NI, which had been due to deliver the new carriageway as part of its £400m Westlands project.
Since then, local business owners, residents and politicians have been calling on the Department for Regional Development to step in and fund the much-needed bypass route.
Their argument that the new road is vital for the future growth of the town - residential and commercial - is backed up by the findings of the Ballyclare Transport Study.
Details of the study, carried out by consultants AECOM as part of the Newtownabbey Regeneration Strategy, were presented to local councillors at their recent Development Committee meeting.
The 83-page document details the current traffic problems in and around the town centre, and predicts that increasing numbers of vehicles on the roads will see travel times double over the next 15 years if improvements aren’t made to the transport infrastructure. It also warns that failure to upgrade the local road network will severely restrict future development.
“The combination of large traffic volumes and congestion, together with a lack of alternative routes for strategic traffic, effectively inhibits further growth of the town as a whole as well as regeneration of its centre,” the report states.
The study details a number of proposals for consideration, including junction changes at The Square and possible development of a one-way system around Granges Street and Park Street. It also highlights a range of other possible options aimed at easing traffic congestion, including increasing levels of walking and cycling, making changes to parking provision and increasing the use of public transport.
However, the report ultimately concludes that construction of the relief road would have “huge potential benefit” to the town, reducing vehicle movements in the town centre at peak times by 30 per cent and cutting journey times by an average of 15 - 20 per cent.
The study, which used computer modelling to predict traffic levels in 2028, also warns that “the implications of not providing the relief road in the future are very significant.”
“The town centre network currently has very little spare capacity at peak times and this limits the amount of additional traffic that can use the network. By not providing the relief road, the town would be effectively ‘capping’ a very limited level of future development and also regeneration within the town centre,” the report states.
It concludes that “the relief road is of critical importance to the town in terms of regeneration and further development. It is therefore recommended that its implementation is sought at the earliest opportunity.”
Council committee members agreed a proposal from Cllr Mandy Girvan that a copy of the study be sent to DRD Minister Danny Kennedy to reinforce the argument that the department needs to step in and help fund delivery of the relief road.
Alderman Pat McCudden stressed that completion of even part of the bypass, from Templepatrick Road to Doagh Road, would help alleviate a large proportion of the town’s traffic problems.