Plans for the redesign of Dublin’s College Green, including a permanent ban on private cars and a new pedestrian plaza in front of the Bank of Ireland, are expected to be made available to the public next month.
The changes are being introduced primarily to accommodate the Luas Cross City line, which is currently under construction and will run through College Green from 2017, but the council also said it wants to improve facilities for walking, cycling and public transport.
The number of buses travelling through the area is expected to double once the Luas is operational and private cars are removed.
“Restricted access for general traffic to College Green is necessary to provide for high quality public transport, pedestrian and cyclist movements,” according to the planning document presented to city councillors on Monday.
Under the plan the traffic islands will be removed and the roadway will be realigned so what is currently the westbound side of Dame Street - the lane running from College Green Down towards Christchurch - will have one lane running in each direction.The other side of the road, in front of the 18th century Bank of Ireland building, will be pedestrianised to form a new public plaza curving around the front of the bank and into Foster Place.
Cars are currently stopped from driving through College Green from 7am to 7pm, to accommodate the Luas work. The new road layout will make this ban full-time and permanent. Cars travelling east on Dame Street will be diverted at an earlier stage than the current “bus gate”, by being forced to turn right into Church Lane, the small street by the side of Ulster Bank.
To facilitate this, traffic flow will be reversed on Church Lane, St Andrew’s Street and Trinity Street, so that motorists can either loop back onto Dame Street and travel west or access car parks such as the Brown Thomas or Dame Lane car parks.
Motorists who want to access Temple Bar and the North Quays will be able to turn off Dame Street onto Anglesea Street. Taxi ranks will be provided between Anglesea Street and Foster Place and westbound between Trinity Street and Dame Court. Loading will be facilitated by means of time plated sections of the taxi ranks on Dame Street.
The Henry Grattan and Thomas Davis monuments on College Green will be relocated to facilitate the street layout improvements and their relocation has yet to be determined. The large London plane trees on College Green* would be cut down.
A number of councillors raised concerns about the safety of the new design for cyclists and pedestrians, particularly given the expected doubling in bus numbers. Some 108,000 bus passengers and a quarter of the Dublin Bus fleet use College Green every day . “We are facilitating fast moving traffic, I want it to be a place I can walk and cycle with my teenage kids,” Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe said.
However Mr Cuffe said he would “happily take a chainsaw” to the “rather bedraggled London plane trees”. More than 10 years ago Mr Cuffe chained himself to similar trees on O’Connell Street to stop their removal.
The councillors, who represent the south east of the city agreed to hold a meeting on the design details of the project. However they also agreed to allow the proposal to go before the December meeting of the full council for ratification so the public consultation process can begin next month, with a view to starting construction work on the scheme next year.
*This article was edited on November 12th, 2015