Tipperary county councillors living near the accident blackspot Piltown Bypass close to Carrick-on-Suir, have thrown their support behind a community campaign to improve road safety on this dangerous stretch of the N24 where two road fatalities occurred last year.
Carrick-on-Suir Cllrs Kieran Bourke (FF) and David Dunne (SF) have added their voices to the growing clamour of calls for urgent action to be taken to tackle the road safety problems on this bypass in the wake of the latest tragedy, the death of pensioner Denis Walsh from Piltown in November. In August, 25 year-old Stephen Lowther, who lived in Carrick-on-Suir, died when the car he was driving was involved in a collision with agricultural machinery on the bypass at Tybroughney.
White crosses have been erected on the bypass in recent weeks to highlight the high number of road accident deaths, injuries and near accident misses on the bypass since it opened 15 years ago. They have been erected by a local campaign established at a public meeting in Piltown Community Hall last month that was a attended by more than 500 people. The meeting was organised following Mr Walsh's tragic death in a road accident at Tower Junction on the bypass.
Passionate pleas were made by community representatives ranging from the local parish priest and primary school principal to a GAA official and relatives of accident victims, for the authorities to make road safety changes in view of the large number of fatalties, injuries and near accident misses on the bypass over the years.
The community want Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII — formerly the NRA) to carry out a full review of the bypass. A fly over bridge at Tower Junction and slip roads for traffic coming onto the bypass from the by roads off it are among the proposed road safety improvements they want the TII to examine and implemented if found suitable.
Cllr Kieran Bourke, whose daughter Valerie suffered catastrophic brain injuries in an accident on the Mooncoin end of the Piltown Bypass ten years ago, told The Nationalist he regards the Bypass to be a "death trap".
But he fears the will is not there among the authorities to make significant changes to the road because the long term plan is to build a new Waterford to Limerick motorway so the bypass won't be needed when it's opened. However, he points out it could be another 20 years before this motorway is constructed so road safety improvements need to be carried out on the bypass as soon as possible.
Cllr Bourke said he was invited to address the recent public meeting at Piltown Community Hall as a family member of an accident victim but declined and didn't attend the meeting because the trauma his family suffered is still "very raw" and "very close to the heart". His daughter Valerie requires round the clock care since the traffic accident at the Old Schoolhouse junction on the bypass in 2006. On that occasion, a truck crossed into her path and collided with her car.
"Something has to be done about the bypass. They (the authorities) can't turn a blind eye to it anymore. How many more people have to die and how many more people's lives, like my daughter's, must be destroyed and to a degree their families lives destroyed...
Cllr Bourke said he attended a recent joint cross county border meeting of councillors from Carrick-on-Suir and Piltown Municipal Districts at which councillors discussed how they could work together to campaign to tackle the Piltown Bypass road safety problems, the upgrade of the N24 Waterford to Limerick road and proposed motorway.
Fellow Carrick-on-Suir Cllr David Dunne (SF) echoed Cllr Bourke's views on the Piltown Bypass. He attended the public meeting in Piltown last month and pledged to give whatever support he could to the campaign, which he believes will be a long one.
"It was one of the biggest public meetings I was ever at. It shows the level of concern," he told The Nationalist.