Calls to put heavily used Kilmeaden High Road on gritting route

Waterford Council simply hasn’t the capacity to pre-treat more minor roads during freezing weather, Comeragh District councillors have been told. Cllr Declan Clune (Ind) raised recent access issues on the High Road in Kilmeaden, which is not catered for by the local authority’s gritting truck. Referring to the cold snap just before Christmas, which resulted in compacted ice, residents “literally couldn’t get out of their house simply because there was too much ice on the hills and it was very, very dangerous,” Cllr Clune said. “One lady rang me to say a truck had actually gone out of control and gone into her wall. It didn’t do a whole lot of damage, it stopped on the grass verge, but she made the point that if there was another car coming towards it, or a pedestrian on the road at the time, it could have been worse. “It’s a heavily used road,” he said, explaining that it effectively connects the city with Clonea Power and Rathgormack and the back road into Kilmac’. As well as residential traffic from the 85-odd houses along it and others passing through, the High Road is used by a lot of agricultural machinery and HGVs such as milk trucks. All are affected when the road becomes impassable. Calling for road to be added to the gritting route, Cllr Clune said: “I totally appreciate we can’t do every single road, but the High Road is about 8km long, it’s not level, there are a lot of steep inclines and declines … it’s also very shaded, so even if there is a little bit of sun on cold days, it doesn’t get to defrost this particular road surface.” Cllr John O’Leary (FF) said he “was born and raised on that road — a small bit of history for Cllr Clune” and had received a number of calls also, following which he’d raised the issue with the senior roads engineer and the area engineer. The “understandable” standard response was that the national roads and secondary regional roads are treated, and that the council is not being financed at national level to treat local routes. The fact of the matter is “we are not equipped” financially, he accepted. But, not withstanding these constraints, “I don’t think it’s acceptable or good enough to have a situation where a very busy route like the High Road, with a huge volume of traffic and up and down terrain, becomes impassable,” Cllr O’Leary maintained. While County Waterford doesn’t get much snow or heavy ice, when we do places are left stranded, he said, asking if there’s something that can be done to support and “empower” local communities to treat their own local roads, suggesting a feasibility study as to how this might be done.

‘Potholes like mushrooms’

Cllr Seanie Power (FG) said “our roads have taken a huge battering there recently between all the rain and the heavy frost. There are potholes appearing everywhere like mushrooms.” In fairness to council workers, they were out filling them and trying to keep water off the roads, which is hugely important. He said the hazardous situation on the Kilmeaden High Road in wintertime has come up almost every year. The road from Clonea Power to Ballydurn was another problem one, being borderline impassable during the last spell of heavy frost. As regards community involvement, he said four or five years ago in his area some of the local agricultural contractors did salting on the few bad roads with lime spreaders. Comeragh District chair Cllr Liam Brazil (FG) agreed that outdoor workers were doing their level best. “I know the council can’t do every road” but he felt they could do certain bad patches along important minor arteries. He referred to two roads in his area – from Downey’s Cross to Mahony’s pub and the Greenway junction in Durrow, where there had been two crashes in recent weeks (one knocking the railing), and from Mahon Bridge to the main road at McGrath’s Cross. Roads Senior Engineer Gabriel Hynes said the council was pre-salting roughly 500km of road network in the city and county as things stand. These comprised main primary and secondary routes and roads around the city, Tramore, and Dungarvan. “There’s significant resources involved in doing that.” That very morning (last Wednesday) crews were out at 3.30am pre-salting and the previous evening as well; they were attending to certain ‘P3’ routes and other roads where there are issues and resources allow. Regarding the specific routes mentioned, including the High Road, “from a resource point of view, we’re not in a position to pre-salt those roads,” Mr Hynes said. However, where there is scope, the gritting crew does salt “locations where there is difficulty.” He insisted “we are no different from any other local authority in the country. They’re all in the same position. There are only a certain amount of resources available that will allow you to pre-salt your priority routes.” Mr Hynes said the council can certainly engage with a community group once they can be satisfied that salt can be stored in an appropriate location and that there is a suitable contractor, or community, willing to do the treating at their own expense. As for potholes, he pointed to the significant rainfall over the past three months, it having rained most days since 1 October. A week or two of significant frost on top of this, inevitably does put pressure on the road network, he said, adding that funding from the Department of Transport for the council’s annual strengthening and tarmacking programme was also being awaited. This is usually announced in late January. He told councillors that getting the road profile right through proper tarmacking and sealing can prevent potholing “for over 20 years”. Those roads that had already been addressed in this manner had “stood up” to the recent severe weather and “hopefully” funding for the continuation of its ‘RI programme’ would be increased this year. He indicated that a workshop will be held with councillors to outline the roadworks schemes that will be prioritised in 2023 once monies are confirmed.

Jamie O’Keeffe