Mystery surrounds ongoing delays
EAGLE-EYED READERS will have noticed that not a lot has been happening with the bridge upgrade works over the last few weeks.
Certainly contractors are working on the north side drilling holes for the road barriers, however, nothing seems to have progressed on the bridge structure itself.
The scaffolding and access platforms are all in place on both sides, but there is no sign of any construction of cantilevers or beams.
The closure of the bridge over a full weekend was originally scheduled for March 3–4 but was postponed due to the market and the fun run being on that date.
The following weekend of March 10–12 was not suitable as it was the Labour Day long weekend, and the next weekend of 17–18 was the Warrandyte Festival.
The works were then re-scheduled for March 23–25 but were cancelled at extremely short notice, at 3pm on Friday March 23, because, according to VicRoads, “our contractor, VEC Civil Engineering, has requested more time to prepare to install the beams”.
This last minute cancellation caused disruption to residents and businesses who had put alternative arrangements in place, including cancelling newspaper and grocery deliveries to North Warrandyte and Warrandyte Theatre Company forgoing their matinee performance — it is still unclear why the decision to cancel the full bridge closure occurred hours before it was meant to start.
Since then, not much has happened, and a complete veil of secrecy has descended on the project.
We visited the site and asked a number of VEC workers what was happening.
We were told, “we’re not allowed to say anything; you’ll have to talk to VicRoads”.
So we asked VicRoads:
• When will the postponed full weekend bridge closure be re-scheduled?
• Have you any dates for later full closures?
• What caused the delay to the originally planned closure?
• When will the whole works be completed?
• What is the schedule for further power outages when your electrical subcontractors need to do further work?
• Do you have any indication of when the traffic lights will be going in on the north side?
Vince Punaro, Regional Director Metro North West, VicRoads told the Diary “At this stage, we have not confirmed any further dates for full closures of the bridge.
“Any lane closures on the bridge will be shared well in advance with the local community and scheduled to minimise inconvenience.”
Cameron Tait, Media Advisor Public Engagement, VicRoads, offered some further information:
“The installation of traffic lights at the Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road and Research-Warrandyte Road intersection is expected to get underway in July.
“All works on the Warrandyte Bridge upgrade are scheduled to be completed by late 2018.”
The April Information Update Bulletin does not tell us much more than the March bulletin, other than that they will shortly be building a new retaining wall on the north side of the bridge, but it does indicate that the first full weekend closure is likely to be rescheduled for “late April/early May”.
VicRoads Strategic Engagement Advisor, Jacqueline Novoselac, insists that there are no problems, work
is continuing on the bridge and
that the project is not running
However, the lack of activity on the bridge structure, ongoing postponements of the full closure, and the subtle change of the date for completion, previously September but now “late 2018” would suggest otherwise.
Any further delays might well drive this project into the next bushfire season.
Obviously something is amiss to have caused a two-month slippage of the closure for installation of cantilevers and beams, and we are not being told the reason.
In view of the significant traffic disruption and as public funds are being spent on this project, the public has a right to be kept better informed of progress and reasons for any delays.
The Diary will keep readers informed on any proposed road closures, as and when information comes to hand, either via this publication, the Diary website or social media channels.
Warrandyte road rage
SEVERE SPEED humps to the north of the bridge — an attempt to calm traffic and make a temporary pedestrian crossing safer — are potentially exacerbating traffic congestion as vehicles are forced to slow to a crawl to clear the traffic calming measures installed in early March.
In the busy hours, school and work commuters — on both sides of the bridge — can be delayed by anything up to 30 minutes.
In the morning, queues north of the river stretch back as far as Albert Road on Research-Warrandyte Road and Floods Road on Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road.
While the evening queues south of the river stretch back as far as the roundabout at Harris Gully Road and to the five-ways Croydon Road junction on Ringwood-Warrandyte Road.
VicRoads vehemently denies that any lengthening of queues is due to the speed humps, and blame any increased queues on the disruption to the Hurstbridge line train service which they say is causing more traffic in the area.
Queues have slackened off considerably in the last fortnight due to the school holidays, but congestion is expected to return to previous levels as of this week.
Additional congestion may also occur on April 18 when the power pole at the RSL is due to be replaced.
The increased queues are causing major headaches for residents on the unsealed roads in North Warrandyte, with many “rat run” drivers ignoring the “No Turn” signs at each end of Blooms Road in an attempt to find a short cut.
Eltham Police have been kept busy booking motorists who ignore these signs but are too busy to attend on a daily basis.
Dingley Dell Road has probably copped the worst of the rat run traffic with motorists from both directions attempting to use this narrow winding street as a shortcut.
But with the morning queues extending further up Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road, a number of motorists are now turning into Floods Road and cutting through Boyd Street and Hawkes Road.
Michelle Parker from Hawkes Road is now on first name terms with the tow-truck drivers as two cars have already fallen into the ditch near her house, and she dreads the day there may be a head-on collision on the blind corner.
She adds, “You should see the chaos on Monday mornings when the rat run drivers meet the garbage truck!”
Suzanne Reid from Dingley Dell Road tells a similar story.
She and other residents are already upset that the signs preventing turns into Blooms Road make it virtually impossible for her to legally get back to her house before 9:30am after dropping children at school in Research.
She would like a “Residents Excepted” sign to be added to the no turn signs.
Ms Reid goes on to say, “when I finally get back to my home on a Monday morning I can find three cars in my driveway because they have had to pull in to let the garbage truck pass.
“And this is a single-track, unsealed road with ditches at the side and with children and dogs walking on the roadway.
“We have to pay to have this road graded now four times a year”.
Because of these problems Mathew Deayton, Manager, Infrastructure at Nillumbik Council has written to residents of Dingley Dell Road seeking their views on a proposal that the street be closed off completely to through traffic.
The plan involves installing a permanent obstruction at the top of Dingley Dell Road.
This would prevent all traffic — including Dingley Dell residents — from turning into Dingley Dell Road from Blooms Road.
Provision would be made for emergency service vehicles and waste collection vehicles.
The opinion of residents is being sought before any decision is made.
Ms Reid tells us that the idea is well-intentioned but as proposed is completely impractical.
As a number of the homes in the street have no provision for cars to turn around on the property, and angled driveways prevent a U-turn on entry and exit, this idea would require cars to reverse a long way down the difficult hill before they would be able to turn.
Affected residents have until April 20 to fill in a questionnaire or make a submission to council.