THE traffic congestion at Warrandyte Bridge has been a growing point of contention for Warrandyte locals with queues of cars often backed up for a few kilometres during peak hours.
The daily commute is becoming unbearable for many, causing frus- tration and concerns over residents’ safety in emergency situations.
The increasing outrage prompted North Warrandyte resident Jennie Hill to create the Fix the Warrandyte Bottleneck Facebook group in April last year. The page aims to encourage discussion about the congestion on the bridge, which continues on Yarra St, and find solutions. At this stage, reaching consensus is proving difficult.
“We can’t agree with the community on exactly what should be done to solve the problem so we can’t find a solution,” Ms Hill said.
With much discussion unfolding on the Fix the Warrandyte Bottleneck and Warrandyte Diary Facebook pages, residents are determined to find a solution. Suggestions include the installation of traffic lights (operating at peak times) at the roundabout of the bridge intersection, encouraging use of public buses, and widening of the bridge and/or building another bridge.
While many solutions seem plausible, opinion is divided. Some residents believe installing traffic lights is logical while others believe that common courtesy and giving way is more efficient. Construction of another bridge along the Yarra River in Warrandyte also seems a solution for some, but others may view it as an eyesore, not only damaging the character of Warrandyte but encouraging more traffic to pass through the quaint suburb.
Many locals are especially upset the traffic is not Warrandyte residents but from those living in surrounding suburbs. There is speculation the development of housing estates in areas such as South Morang, Epping and Whittlesea has created more traffic moving towards the city or down south.
“The traffic is not all local. I believe it’s from the growth areas around Doreen and Yan Yean looking for a way to go south without using the toll road. I also believe it is getting worse!” Lisa Upson commented on the Diary’s Facebook page.
The City of Whittlesea, which includes the suburbs of South Morang, Epping and Whittlesea, is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Australia.
According to population experts, forecast.id, the population of the City of Whittlesea is set to increase by almost 40,000 by 2020, indicating congestion is unlikely to ease in the future.
Snail’s pace: Jennie Hill stands near the Warrandyte bridge bottleneck during the school drop-off peak. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. We can’t go back to ‘old’ Warrandyte. The traffic is here and it’s only going to get worse. We need to stop complaining and find a solution.”
Resident Dori Jennings said her son had missed his connecting bus to school on several occasions because the first bus takes almost half an hour just to travel from Pigeon Bank Road to the IGA on Warrandyte Road about 4km.
Although the excessive traffic con- gestion is inconvenient and causing patience to wear thin, concerns sur- rounding emergency management are not being dismissed. Warrandyte is listed as one of 52 high fire risk locations in Victoria, according to the CFA. Along with narrow roads and numerous dead ends, the bridge congestion is another factor contrib- uting to Warrandyte’s access issues.
In the event of a bushfire, a mass evacuation may become a critical problem as the bridge is the only one out of Warrandyte.
“It’s only a matter of time before it’s a matter of life and death. How
do emergency vehicles get through traffic congestion in an emergency let alone bushfire situations?” Jade Shoppee commented on the Diary’s Facebook page.
Ms Hall acknowledges opinions are varied because of residents’ needs and proximity to the bridge, however, she maintains the foremost issue for everyone should be the preservation of life in the event of an emergency.
“The argument has to be turned around. People cannot look at it from the perspective of what is going to benefit them most but instead look at what’s important and what can potentially save lives… it’s about preserving lives and not just a matter of personal preferences.”
Member for Warrandyte Ryan Smith has been seeking action on the matter from the Andrews gov- ernment for some time.
After Mr Smith took Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley to see the congestion, Mr Lapsley immediately initiated discus- sions with VicRoads and local councils to install Disaster Plan (Displan) boxes at both ends of the bridge. The Displan boxes were installed in late 2014 and contain emergency equipment to assist with traffic in the event of an emergency.
“Our No.1 concern during an emer- gency is the safe evacuation of people,” Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said he contacted the Minister for Roads and Road Safety in December last year but there has not been any more progress on the matter; the minister has reiterated that VicRoads would continue to work with the Warrandyte commu- nity on local traffic management issues.
According to VicRoads metro north-west regional director Adam Maguire, VicRoads is working with the CFA and Melbourne Water to look at water access and supply for fire brigades and is also investigating a range of options for this Yarra River crossing, including the construction of a second bridge or the widening of the existing bridge.
Mr Maguire said funding for these activities would be considered.
Although no plans are final, Mr Smith is determined to find a resolution for the community.
“I will continue to hold the Andrews government to account on this matter and to push for the study that was started last year to continue so that a workable solution can be found.”
To have your say or to read more about it, join the Fix the Warrandyte Bottleneck page on Facebook and keep an eye on the Diary Facebook page for more updates.