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Journeys : Feb March 2011
February / March 2011 23 Life on the move Launceston’s road network – its deficiencies and long-term solutions This article is written by Harry Galea, Director Infrastructure Services of the Launceston City Council. The views expressed are personal opinions. They do not represent a formal position of the Council but are views that are voiced in any discussion in considering the deficiencies of the traffic network in Launceston. Ioften hear the comment that overall Launceston does not have a traffic problem. People say ‘You only need to look at the major capital cities on the mainland and cities overseas, where congestion and at times gridlock is a normal occurrence.’ Compar isons like that are reasonable to make but that does not mean we should do nothing and should be happy with that level of congestion. If the community demands it, we should str ive for a higher level of ser vice. Over the past decades we have observed particular traffic routes that are reaching saturation or are routes where the adjacent residential community has expressed a deterioration of their amenity and safety of their street. Particular routes suffer a much higher traffic growth. General traffic growth is caused by the increasing rate of car ownership and a general increase in population. Specific traffic route growth is caused by the expansion of the city into greenfield areas such as Alanvale, Youngtown, Prospect /Blackstone Heights. Some routes are now experiencing congestion as a result of topography and physical restrictions – I refer to the North Esk River, which cur rently has two crossing points between the northern suburbs and the CBD; and the South Esk/Tamar River where Trevallyn and the West Tamar Highway also have two crossing points into the CBD and the southern suburbs. The southern outlet (constructed in the seventies) divides southern L aunceston from the Prospect area, with generally very few crossing points to allow east/west transportation; and finally the general topography of Launceston, with a ridge located north south (being the line of High Street), resulting in a concentration of traffic along the ‘valley’ routes of Elphin/ Penquite Road and Wellington Street/ Hobart Road. This contributes to traffic congestion and significant reduction in residential amenity for the follow ing routes: • Gascoyne-Riseley Street route (Kings Meadows) – 3870 vehicles per day along a narrow residential road network • Granv ille-Salisbur y Crescent (West Launceston) – 3993 vehicles per day along a narrow residential road network • Cimitiere and York Streets – 12,000 vehicles per day and 11,000 vehicles per day respectively on streets that act as major arterial routes to link the east part of the city to the west, while their function should only be circulation of traffic around the CBD. Cimitiere Street has experienced significant growth in the past three years with an increase of 95% (heavy vehicles) and 45% (cars). • Charles Street Bridge crossing the North Esk River (link to Goderich Street); and Tamar Street Bridge – 29,000 vehicles per day and 19,000 vehicles per day respectively. These br idges are reaching saturation point and providing the mixed (and at times conf licting) function of commuter access and freight route. Over the years the Council has attempted to introduce traffic management schemes, particularly on congested narrow residential road routes, to reduce traffic speed and encourage the use of established arterial road routes. Traffic management schemes have been undertaken in the West L aunceston and Kings Meadows areas which, although ameliorating and possibly controlling the situation, have not resulted in reducing numbers to an acceptable residential level of ser vice. It is apparent that solutions to these problems depend on developing new road routes rather than just relying on punitive treatments along the existing network. Options for new road routes have been in the pipeline and investigated over many years but have been deferred, primar ily due to the significant cost to constr uct new road routes and the availability of land. One of the routes investigated in conjunction with DIER involved the complete bypass of Launceston (a route from near Breadalbane to Rocherlea) but at an estimated cost of over $600M (2006 rates) the project stalled as it was difficult to justify. Other road routes and traffic infrastructure still under consideration include a third br idge over the Nor th Esk River, another bridge over the Tamar River near to Forster Street, a new route around the CBD, an interchange on the Bass Highway at Oakden Road (as a faster and easier alternative to using residential streets in Kings Meadows and West Launceston as commuter routes) and an appropriate bypass of Launceston for freight and timber cartage vehicles. Although new roads w ill have a role in addressing L aunceston’s traffic problems, many cities have found that their provision can be counter-productive, since they soon fill up with traffic and we are back to square one. For this reason Launceston will also be investigating the need for and acceptability of demand management. Road transport today is not solely about catering for cars and freight vehicles but equally about providing for growing transport modes such as walking and cycling. The amenity value of our streets is just as important as providing for motorised transportation. The trick is finding an acceptable balance. With the ever-growing pressure on fossil fuels and alter native forms of transport (walking, cycling and public transport) planning is more important than ever before. In giving due consideration to alternative forms of transportation and the amenity value of our public roads, Council undertook two studies, with the second soon to be tabled by international consultant, Jan Gehl and Associates on the revitalisation of the central activities district, putting a focus on people rather than vehicles. The technical road options reports, the urban design report and alternative transportation repor t will all be considered simultaneously over the next 12 months to allow the Council to deter mine the future direction for Launceston.
Apr May 2011