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Bridge and traffic issues continue

THERE ARE several continuing issues concerning the bridge, its surrounds and heavy traffic and the Diary will keep you updated with progress.

Fire Danger Sign

The Fire Danger Sign on Kangaroo Ground Road on the north side of bridge has not been operating since the start of the current fire season.

The Diary discussed this matter with North Warrandyte CFA following the Bushfire Scenario meeting in November.

Their initial enquiries to the Country Fire Authority(CFA) HQ were met with the response that, although the data to be displayed on the signs is provided by CFA, the actual signs are owned and operated by Emergency Services Victoria (EMV).

Further enquiries by CFA and by some readers to EMV’s ‘Report a Fault’ line were met with a standard response that the fault was known but they were awaiting a part. 

By mid-December, when nothing further had been done, North Warrandyte CFA members investigated the matter and found that the box had not been touched or opened for many months.

When this was put to EMV they eventually did attend and reported back that they could not work on the sign at its current location due to a health and safety issue; namely that there is a new High Voltage power cable immediately above the sign.

After enquiries from the Diary and representations from Ryan Smith MP to the Emergency Services Minister’s office, we finally received a statement from Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp: 

“EMV is aware of the current operational issues with the Fire Danger Rating sign at North Warrandyte and is working closely with the Nillumbik Shire Council, CFA and local brigades to come to a resolution that meets the needs of the community. 

“The current location of the sign means it cannot be serviced due to considerable safety and access issues and once a new location is sourced, the Fire Danger Rating sign will be reinstalled.”

So, that is the current situation, but it raises further questions.

When the sign was originally erected in 2014, the high voltage (HV) powerline was 3-wire and passed to the west of the now bundled line.

At a very early stage of the bridge widening project, the HV line was converted to bundled and re-routed directly over the sign, and at a later stage of the project a small gate was set into the bridge railing to provide access to the sign.

Where were EMV when all this was being planned and why did they allow all that work to happen, or did VicRoads and Ausnet Services never consult EMV?

And as it is not working now, should it be covered up because out-of-towners will come across the bridge and say “Ah, there’s no fire danger today!”?

Readers have also reported that the Fire Danger Sign at the strawberry farm on the Ringwood Road was was not displaying the Severe rating on December 20.

Commissioner Crisp advises “In relation to the South Warrandyte Fire Danger Rating sign, during routine checks all Fire Danger Ratings on the sign are working effectively and there have been no reported issues; but as a precaution a further in-person assessment will be completed shortly.”

Traffic light sequence

Several people have noted and commented that the traffic light sequence at the lights north of the bridge has been changed during the last four weeks.

The lights used to work well.

Now, they are causing a build-up of traffic on Research-Warrandyte Road, with motorists facing red lights even when there is no traffic on Kangaroo Ground Road.

Further, the lights are only letting a few cars through at a time.

The Diary contacted VicRoads to ask if there was a fault or if this was a deliberate change.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport stated:

“In response to community feedback, we adjusted the sequencing of the signals to provide more time for northbound traffic on Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road, which has reduced queuing at the roundabout.

“We will look into whether we can make any further improvements to improve traffic flow in all directions.”

So, yes, the current sequence does mean a shorter green light for drivers exiting Reasearch-Warrandyte Road, and yes, it is deliberate.

For the moment, drivers will have to wait and see if VicRoads deem the queues on Research-Warrandyte Road to be too long and make further adjustments to the sequnence.

Trucks through Warrandyte

Following our December article Fed-up residents call for Warrandyte truck ban, and yet another major truck accident at the bridge, the matter has been taken further by local activist Ben Ramcharan.

He and local residents are writing to VicRoads and members in all levels of government, calling for:

•  improved safety for residents, road users and pedestrians

•  fairness to our hard-working truck drivers

•  minimised environmental impact

•  minimised impact on local character

They have conducted a straw poll on social media and present a wide-ranging list of suggestions for solving the problems, with scores for and against each option.

The Diary contacted VicRoads and asked if they were actively looking at the problem of trucks on these steep and winding roads, and to enquire about the status of the 30-tonne limit on Research-Warrandyte Road, now that repairs have taken place to the culvert near the traffic lights.

A Department of Transport spokesperson responded “It’s important all drivers, especially drivers of trucks and large vehicles, drive to the conditions and make sure loads are secure at all times.

“The safety of our roads and road users is our highest priority and we regularly inspect our road network to identify any areas where we can further improve safety.

“A temporary 30-tonne load limit was introduced on Research-Warrandyte Road while we carried out works on the road, and we’re now reviewing whether this limit will continue to remain in place.

“Our five-year crash data shows there has not been an increase in crashes involving heavy vehicles in the Warrandyte area,” the spokesperson said.

Shared pathway

VicRoads have finally erected signs on the shared pathway on the west side of the bridge to mark it as such, a shared pathway for pedestrians and cyclists.

However, these signs are only visible to cyclists travelling south on the pathway, with start and end signs erected.

There are no signs visible at all to northbound cyclists.

A Department of Transport spokesperson tells us “We will review the signage for the shared path on the western side of the bridge and install additional signage, if necessary.”

Cyclists on Research-Warrandyte Road

A new hazard could occur on Research-Warrandyte Road and other main roads in the area if RACV’s current, well-intentioned push for the State Government to mandate a minimum passing distance for motorists when overtaking cyclists is passed.

The proposal would mean that motorists would legally have to leave at least one metre of space between their vehicle and a cyclist when overtaking.

Now that the entire 7.5km length of Research-Warrandyte has been painted with double white lines, it would be impossible for motorists to overtake a cyclist anywhere on that road without crossing the lines.

In a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”, even now motorists who slow down to 4 km/h behind a cyclist puffing and panting up a steep hill quickly get a long queue of traffic behind them, and find that it is not long before someone behind them comes out and tries to overtake the lot.

Work to begin on Lions Park

By SANDI MILLER

CONSTRUCTION of the upgrade of Lions Park in Warrandyte River Reserve is anticipated to start in April this year.

Angelo Kourambas, Director of City Planning and Community at Manningham Council says the first stage of works will include landscaping around the bridge, creating a new car park, paths, installing fitness equipment and new picnic tables.

“The masterplan for the upgrade of Lions Park includes two new picnic shelters with barbecues, one near the bridge, and one closer to the play space,” he said.

This is in addition to the existing barbecue shelter in Lions Park.

“To allow the space to be used for cooking and eating and improve accessibility, the existing shelter will be updated to include a new barbecue with two plates that is wheelchair accessible, together with picnic facilities,” Mr Kourambas said.

However, this is not without controversy. 

Denis Robertshaw of the Warrandyte Lions Club is disappointed that the existing barbeque is being replaced with a smaller one.

“In 1988 Warrandyte Lions raised money from the community to construct an undercover electric BBQ facility with picnic tables in the surrounds.

“This is a four-burner hot plate unit with stainless bench top that has served locals and tourists for 32 years.

“As part of council redevelopment, they are reducing the four-unit cooktop to two, at considerable cost, requiring a complete new stainless top.

“Why this change is happening defies logic, all four units get regular use.

“Apparently another two-unit BBQ will be constructed closer to the bridge,” he said.

Mr Kourambas said that the change to the existing shelter “has been considered in light of the facilities featured in the overall masterplan for the Lions Park upgrade”.

Mr Robertshaw said that due to lack of use, Lions are relinquishing the tennis courts to make way for landscaping and car parking and instead will be contributing to a Fitness Station to be built under the bridge.

 “It will be a sad state of affairs if our original BBQ unit is rehashed, as it was an initiative under the Bicentennial Year,” Mr Robertshaw said.