Bridge of discontent
by Sammi Taylor & Scott Podmore
7th December 2015
THE Warrandyte Bridge is a source of community anxiety once again as summer arrives and bushfire season starts early as residents are left waiting for a much-anticipated traffic report and more so a solution to a serious problem.
VicRoads now expects “to present and seek community feedback on a preferred option by mid-2016”. If an emergency event were to strike Warrandyte tomorrow, an estimated 2502 vehicles per hour per lane would be able to evacuate the area, causing total evacuation time to exceed three hours. That’s time Warrandyte residents simply don’t have in the event of a bushfire, Member for Warrandyte Ryan Smith told the Diary.
“I’m glad there has actually been some progress around identifying some options to ease the congestion and make the community safer during a fire event. However, the timelines are too long and we actually need to see some progress from VicRoads a lot sooner than the timelines that they’ve flagged,” he says.
“I will certainly be continuing to put pressure on the government to ensure we do get some progress in a more timely manner.“
Back in June, VicRoads regional director Adam Maguire informed Mr Smith in a letter that traffic modeling of the Warrandyte Bridge road network would be conducted and a report handed down by the end of August. An additional $140,000 was committed in the 2015–16 budget to investigate ways to improve traffic capacity of the Warrandyte Bridge during an emergency.
VicRoads has since completed the traffic modelling investigation assessing potential options to provide additional vehicle crossing capacity of the Yarra River in the vicinity of the Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road Bridge in the event of a fire evacuation scenario. The report is said to comprise emergency traffic plans to assist in evacuation in the event of emergency and an update on the daily bumper-to-bumper traffic.
A community forum was held on November 12 at the Warrandyte Community Church by VicRoads and Emergency Management Victoria to discuss with residents and authorities the possible scenarios for action in the event of a bush fire, and the construction work that should be done in regards to the traffic flow on the bridge.
David Teague, VicRoads’ director transport and planning metro north west, told the Diary: “Information and supporting documentation on the potential options will be made available on the VicRoads website in early 2016.
Among the options considered as part of the investigation were upgrading the existing bridge to three lanes and building a second pedestrian bridge on Bradleys Lane, which could be opened to vehicles during emergencies.
“VicRoads, in conjunction with councils and emergencies services, expect to be in a position to present and seek community feedback on a preferred option by mid-2016.
“In partnership with Warrandyte Community Association, emergency services and Nillumbik Shire Council we are committed to delivering new traffic cameras in the Warrandyte area over the coming months which will be strategically placed to provide real-time traffic information to the community.”
VicRoads has also installed new traffic management signs and Disaster Plan boxes in the area, which contain equipment needed to assist with traffic management during emergencies and together with Victoria Police and CFA has “also developed improved traffic management plans to better cope during emergency evacuations”.
Three scenarios were proposed by VicRoads at the forum including:
+ Upgrading the bridge to three lanes, two southbound and one northbound, with new T-intersection signals at Research-Warrandyte Road and a wider entry road prior to the bridge on Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road.
+ Building a second bridge at Bradley’s Lane/Everard Drive for emergency use only.
+ Combining both scenario one and two for optimum results, saving over two hours of evacuation time and costing between $7-$10 million.
Warrandyte is in for a hot and dry fire season that all residents need to be prepared for, says emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley and local fire chiefs.
“The presentation by VicRoads about the Warrandyte Bridge and the options available to help with the access and egress was a worthwhile start to the discussion but it also highlighted that no matter what option progresses, those who live in Warrandyte have to make good decisions about their safety early, and to know what they need to do in the event of a fire, or a high fire danger day,” he says.
“Victoria’s future emphasis is on safer and more resilient communities. Creating a resilience-based approach is the first step in creating a modern emergency management system for Victoria. Empowerment of local communities to drive their own emergency management processes is core to this, working through existing networks, local leadership and community priorities to ensure that planning and recovery process are tailored, meaningful and self-sustaining.”
Bush fire threats aside, residents are still up in arms about the daily traffic congestion at the bridge during peak times.
“Most residents are more concerned by the day-to-day gridlock,” says Dick Davies, president of the Warrandyte Community Association.
“I think in order to resolve the daily gridlock issue in Warrandyte, it needs to be tied into the emergency management planning. We’re [Warrandyte] too far down the list of priorities and I think the two need to be done together.”
If you have more information on this issue, or you want to voice your concerns about local issues, send an email to info@warrandytediary. com.au. To see the full report from the forum visit www.warrandyte.org.au and letters to the editor can be emailed to email@example.com