There is a lot of truth in the contention that the Irish spend so much time demanding the precise change they want, that they are incapable of delivering any change at all. The plans for the York Street interchange (where the M2 Shore Motorway, M3 Lagan Bridge and A12 Westlink Expressway meet) are an example. I personally am keen on the project to proceed, and am not going to let my preference for closing the Clifton Street northbound on-ramp (nor indeed for the name “Yorkgate” rather than “York Street”) to get in the way of that.
However, I am beginning to question whether I am a hypocrite…
One of the problems here is that the Westlink Expressway was not completed properly in 2009 (when two roundabouts and some lights were removed) despite three years of traffic chaos – something which bugs the engineers and is one of the reasons Yorkgate (sorry, “York Street”) is such a priority.
However, the York Street lights are not just the end of the Westlink Expressway, but also the beginning in effect of the M3/A2 Sydenham Bypass leading, within a mile, to further lights at Dee Street. We have to bear in mind that the specific advantage of the project will be on divergent traffic flows (i.e. countrybound), but if there are lights almost immediately the queue is barely moved (coming to affect even traffic back on the Westlink not travelling in the direction of the lights).
There are plans to widen the Sydenham Bypass and remove the Dee Street lights, which have already been on public display. Asked what the York Street engineers planned to do about the inevitability of queues resulting at and from Dee Street even once the new interchange is completed, the response was “There is a plan for that” – but not, notably, “Don’t worry about it”!
This tells me that in fact the two projects are co-dependent – actually as much the same project as removing the Broadway and Grosvenor Road roundabouts were.
I am increasingly therefore of the view, if it is possible, that they (Sydenham Bypass and York Street) should form a single project – maximising the impact of each while limiting the impact during construction on traffic to one period of roadworks. Therefore, of I were the Regional Development Minister, I would move on with the A6 Randalstown-Castledawson expressway project, while taking a joint “North/East Belfast Gateway” project through planning.