Concerned residents of an “extremely dangerous” road in Balrath near Kells say they live in fear every day that there will be another traffic fatality in their community unless speed calming measures are introduced. The tragic death of a 26-year-old motorcyclist recently at Balrath Cross has left the community shocked but not surprised according to Dáire Shields of Balrath Residents Association.
He says that the community living on a stretch of road on the N52 from the M3 roundabout to Balrath Cross has been campaigning for traffic calming measures and a footpath for decades but all appeals up until now have been unsuccessful.
“Traffic volumes have increased over the years especially since the opening of the M3 motorway but the amount of traffic on our road is just out of control,” he said.
“There are 50 houses in this area, most with direct access onto the N52. We are particularly concerned with the 1km section within the 60km/h speed zone because nobody adheres to the speed limit and there is no footpath.
Balrath residents fear another fatality if traffic calming measures are not made a priority for the N52
“There have been some fatalities in this area over the years and we have been warning Meath County Council and the Gardai that further fatalities are inevitable.
“There was a fatal crash at Balrath Cross at the end of our road just a few weeks ago. We are absolutely devastated that this has happened again. Another life ended and so many more destroyed. Our community genuinely lives in fear of our lives.”
Entering the road every day for routine tasks like school runs with children or hospital appointments for the elderly is like Russian Roulette,” according to Mr Shields.
“No one lets their kids out. We have got elderly people living here and they won’t go out and no one can visit them. If you were walking, you’d have to be ready to jump into the ditch if you meet a car and that’s the reality of it.
“My wife was on a school run with our children who are four and five. She entered the N52 from where we live in Rhine Lane having checked that there was no oncoming traffic. As she did, an articulated truck came thundering around the bend forcing her to swerve back into the ditch to avoid being wiped out by the truck. A whole family could be wiped out in seconds. This is our lives every day.”
An elderly resident describes an incident that occurred on the road a couple of years ago that left her shaken.
Different generations all hoping for a safe road to live on
“I was on my morning walk, I had a high vis jacket and was walking as near as I could to the edge. A huge lorry overtook a car as it was overtaking me and the lorry was a hair’s breadth from my arm. I was numb. It was so scary, the lorry was so long that I thought it would never pass, I was very lucky.
“We are over 50 years on this road and there was a shop on the road when we first moved here and the first thing we were asked to do when we went in was to sign the petition to get a footpath on the road. If it was dangerous then, you can imagine how dangerous it is now.”
“We have been trying to get traffic calming and a footpath for years,” comments Mr Shields, adding “We have been phoning and emailing the council but have just been sent in circles. The council have sent us to the TII( Transport Infrastructure Ireland) who have sent us back to the council. The council then sent us to the Gardai because it’s an enforcement issue and the Gardai came back and said that they can’t actually police this section of road because it’s too dangerous.”
Since 2010 things have gotten exponentially worse with the opening of the M3 motorway adding to the problem, according to the Balrath resident,
“The M3 was the final nail in the coffin. It has introduced massive volumes of traffic through the area. The lack of foresight from planners regarding the effect the M3 would have on connecting roads is astonishing.”
In the last few years, Meath County Council has been stating there are no funds available to address these safety concerns and the community has been making its own efforts to raise funds,
The recent fatality at Balrath Cross has left the community 'devastated'
“We have been making applications under available grant schemes for funding through the Department of Rural and Community Development. Our recent application through the CLÁR 2019 Scheme was knocked back due to time restrictions since works had to be completed by October 2019, and works on national routes such as the N52 require input from TII.”
Things took a step forward in a recent Kells Municipal District meeting where all seven councillors unanimously passed a motion to have Meath County Council undertake a detailed footpath design in conjunction with TII. With the design completed, residents will be in a position to make further grant applications.
Fine Gael councillor Sarah Reilly, who tabled the motion, is confident that it will be prioritised,
“The recent fatality has had a devastating impact on the community and they are keen to come together to try and address these safety issues. I have been ensured that the council is going to make this a priority. Residents have had to live in fear for too long, action needs to be taken without delay.”