Tag Archives: traffic congestion

Bridge too far?

SHOULD we be careful what we wish for? The Manningham Leader carried a story last month under the heading One Bridge Not Enough saying hundreds of “squeaky wheels” were “demanding VicRoads build a second crossing of the Yarra River in Warrandyte”.

The impetus behind this demand is a petition launched by local resident, Jan Freeman, which is receiving much attention on social media. Long traffic queues at peak times and concern about outcomes in the event of a major bushfire have fuelled support for the petition.

Historically, the problem has arisen because Warrandyte has one of only three bridges that span the Yarra River in the north east of Melbourne. The others are Fitzsimons Lane at Templestowe (also very busy at peak times) and Vasey Houghton Bridge at Yarra Glen. With population growth and greater vehicle numbers, traffic through the township has increased over the years leading to the long queues at peak times.

This severely impacts Warrandyte residents, particularly those who live north of the river, in both the morning and afternoon peak periods and there is naturally a desire to see improvements. But more bridges mean more roads, a wider bridge means widened roads and, no matter what, better traffic conditions leads to more, not less, traffic as improved travel times attract more drivers from other congested routes.

There is anecdotal evidence that the failure so far to link the Metropolitan Ring Road to the Eastern Freeway and Eastlink has led to traffic finding alternative routes and river crossings through the north-eastern suburbs. Despite calls to complete the so-called “missing link”, through the Banyule Flats and Yarra River area which would entail another river bridge, no action appears forthcoming.

That is despite calls as recently as April this year when the RACV identified the “missing link’’ as its No.1 priority and called on the state government to fund it. However, the Banyule plan is actively opposed by local groups seeking to protect their area’s environmental values.

There is no doubt that Warrandyte’s topography, environmental sensitivity and history also presents many challenges for road and traffic planners seeking to improve traffic flow and the river crossing. The question must be asked, how much is the Warrandyte community prepared to compromise to achieve a better traffic outcome at peak periods?

Many solutions have been suggested in the past, ranging from a proposed Yarra Street widening and realignment in the 1980s (vehemently opposed by the com- munity) to a bridge from Bradleys Lane to Everard Drive more recently (discounted by authorities). Dick Davies, president of the Warrandyte Community Association (WCA), said recently that up until now everybody had a solution to Warrandyte’s traffic problems but nobody had data, so a VicRoads traffic report on the bridge road network, due in August, will be most welcome and should assist in identifying problems and solutions.

In addition, $140,000 has been budgeted to investigate ways to improve the bridge’s traffic capacity during an emergency, including widening and strengthening the bridge. An emergency situation is the greatest impetus for change. The current bridge has served our community well for nearly 60 years. No doubt the community will wish to be involved in any plans for change in order to protect the amenity and historical connections particularly if change leads to modifications to Yarra Street or the historic streetscape.

To return to the original question do we need to be careful what we wish for?

While much attention has been focused on the bridge do we want to see it vastly altered, especially if it leads to major road changes as a result?

While much attention has been focused on the traffic line in Yarra Street at peak periods which so infuriates motorists, what changes can we hope for given this type of congestion happens at most major river crossings (even those on major arterial roads such as Fitzsimons Lane or Banksia Street)?

Can we accept that traffic congestion has the effect of deterring some traffic and that increasing capacity will attract more, not less, traffic as has been experienced elsewhere? Should we be more focused on the broader area solutions such as the Northern Arterial extension from Reynolds Road to the Maroondah Highway?

One thing is for sure – the debate, petitions and lobbying will persist as long as the line of traffic continues to snake along the township’s roads.

 

Traffic gridlock

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.