5 July 2021

Disruptions on way as work starts on new Woden Interchange

| Ian Bushnell
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Woden Interchange

What the Woden Interchange will look like when completed and light rail is connected. Image: ACT Government.

Woden motorists can expect to use alternative routes from next month when Callum Street closes for the start of construction on the new transport interchange.

The $30 million contract for the interchange, which will include light rail stops in preparation for when the line is extended to Woden, has been awarded to Huon Contractors and work is already under way on bus layovers and driver amenities on Easty Street and Launceston Street near Phillip Oval.

Community consultation has also begun on plans for a new north-south road connection linking Bowes and Bradley streets as a local access shared zone, a proposal that the Woden Valley Community Council says will clog the area with traffic and cut the pedestrian link with the planned new CIT.

Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel said the new interchange would be closely integrated with the CIT project and both projects would be major disruptions for the Woden Town centre.

Callam Street will be permanently closed to private vehicles between Bradley Street and Matilda Street from around mid-August with the final on-street interchange creating a pedestrian-friendly space between the Town Square and Woden Town Park.

Traffic will be redirected to Melrose, Yamba Drive and Easty Street.

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Chair of the Public Transport Association Ryan Hemsley said it would be short-term pain for the long-term gain of a modern, safer interchange.

He said parts of the Town Centre were disconnected and the new interchange will stitch these pieces together so people will feel comfortable walking around the Town Centre and more comfortable accessing it by public transport.

“Bear with it, we’ve got a fantastic interchange coming. At the end of this it will be a much better town centre that you will want to visit,” he said

The first phase of construction will include the new bus layovers and facilities, road improvements on Wilbow, Easty, Launceston and Callam streets, new traffic lights at the Bowes/Launceston, Callam/Launceston and Easty/Launceston intersections and new pedestrian crossings across the Town Centre.

The new interchange will include 18 bus stops, up from the current 11, and provide for up to 40 per cent more services through Woden. It is expected to be completed in 2022 when the current interchange will be demolished to make way for the new multi-level CIT.

“It will provide a better connected and more sustainable Woden Town Centre in the future,” he said.

More community consultation will be conducted in the coming months on a new pedestrian boulevard linking the new public transport interchange with the Town Centre and on multiple aspects of the proposed CIT Woden campus as work progresses on its design.

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The Community Council has always argued that the interchange should stay where it is and the CIT sited elsewhere, such as on the car park between Grand Central Towers and the Hellenic Club, a bigger space that would allow a more appealing campus design and greater green space.

But Mr Steel said the decision to site the interchange on Callum Street and create a new east-west pedestrian boulevard from Woden Town park to the Town Square stemmed from the Woden Town Centre Master Plan.

He said traffic modelling showed arterial roads surrounding Woden Town Centre would cope when Callum Street closed but a new Bradley Street/Bowes Street connection would allow access to the Town Centre, CIT and the interchange.

To learn more about the consultations go to the YourSay website.

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Good riddance to the old concrete wind tunnel and associated danger points. The new interchange should be a lot safer for the bus and light rail travellers of Canberra.

Now to get TC to rethink the route structures and stop treating the ever declining centre as “planet Woden”. It should be very simple to find alternative termini or to loop services through Woden to avoid having the proposed massive layovers and hives of idling buses. Also, isn’t there a feasibility study going on into terminating Stage 2B (ii) LR at Mawson? This would also further reduce the imagined importance of Woden as a hub.

HiddenDragon8:43 pm 06 Jul 21

This is one cluster which won’t be resolved by testing and contact tracing.

If one good thing comes out of it, the street with a name which starts with “c” and ends with “m” might be re-named Station Street – to end the confusion (or maybe Stationary Street, which would renew the confusion but at least provide a bit of comic relief).

Over the last few years, the Woden area has become an absolute mess for cars, public transport, bikes and pedestrians. All those additional traffic lights and poor transport design have made things worse for everyone.

They need to go back to basic good design approaches.

Keep the trunk roads flowing to get bypassing traffic through the area. That will actually help reduce and slow down traffic through the shopping, work and residential areas.

Isn’t that essentially what this is doing? Closing Callum street where they are to general traffic is designed to force through vehicles to bypass the town centre. Only vehicles that will need to use it are those accessing the plaza carparks and buses.

JC. What makes you think this is what they’re doing?

All the recent planning changes and the proposed road changes around Woden are the opposite of freeing up trunk routes to get transport through the area quickly. This isn’t going to put the genie back in the bottle.

The trunk routes are Yamba Dr and Melrose Dr.

This restriction on Callam st means that only traffic accessing the town centre area will use it, allowing the town centre to be bypassed on the trunk routes by all other traffic.

This is actually a good proactive move to allow the town centre to grow without adding unnecessary car traffic through the middle of it.

Although I’m obviously not a fan of the light rail, it makes perfect sense to create a public transport interchange in the town centre for high capacity movement. If they actually did it correctly, it would allow people from the closer areas to not need their cars because they would have access to good public transport through Woden to Civic going North and Tuggeranong going South.

Thanks Chewy for once again telling me what I already know and making yet another strawman. You really have something against me for calling out some of your occasional poor calls from the past.

The additional lights and intersections on the trunk road Melrose Drive has encouraged drivers to cut through Callam, Corinna, Worgan and Launceston Streets. This has helped lead to greater congestion through the Woden area and created flow on issues for buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

There’s been quite a shift in congestion on those roads around the Woden Town centre. Primarily because of the poor design that I highlighted in my first post.

But if you don’t want to believe that, I’m never going to be able to change your mind.

I’m just responding to your comments to JC because it seems you don’t understand what the intent of the changes are.

You claim that the area is a mess for public transport and pedestrians currently and I fully agree.

The proposed changes will significantly ameliorate those problems by removing the rat runners and other cars you’ve rightly said have been pushing into the middle of the town centre. This sets the area up significantly better for buses and the future light rail making public transport options far more efficient.

It also has the added effect of pushing the cars around the area which will no doubt lead to more congestion, making public transport and other routes more viable.

There is no miracle fix in this growing area to hugely improve road traffic or capacity and it’s not desirable anyway. As a major urban intensification route, they are deliberately attempting to reduce cars in the area and increase public transport efficiency to reduce overall road use and increase the public transport viability.

What you think is “bad” design is actually the intent.

Who said trunk routes need to be free? What needs to be free is the centre’s. Which is essentially what this is doing.

And yes trunk routes will get busier and more congested but only way to fix that is make Hindmarsh drive 10 lanes wide, or get rid of half the population.

Fact is with more people in this city people have to accept more congestion especially around business areas like Woden.

I’m gonna stick with my original claims that transport planning around Woden has been poor, all the traffic lights on Melrose has pushed more cars into Woden centre streets and that the new works around Woden (as currently proposed) aren’t that good.

But you two can think it’s a good design proposal, I’m just saying it’s another example of poor urban design in the Woden area.

I remember arguing that Kingston design changes weren’t good at the time. ACT Government made their changes and then a year later took all the changes out and put it back to the way it was. This Interchange proposal and Woden traffic flows need some severe tweaks IMO.

I’m not saying it is good or bad actually. What I can see is what they are trying to achieve.

And as I mentioned biggest issue the city over is people not understanding the reason we used to have such a great road network was because it was originally designed to take more traffic years later. Like now. Now those roads are carrying their design capacity and people cannot wizz through like they used to people think the place is broken.

Whilst there are roads that are broken the vast majority are not. And think Woden is one area where it isn’t broken just now carrying what it was designed for.

JC your claim is not backed up by the data. Melrose Drive is actually carrying ‘less cars’ than it used to and that’s evident on all six road tube counters that measured the traffic along Melrose Drive, with a remarkable 23% reduction compared to two years ago at the northern end of Melrose.

The recent road changes around Woden have been ‘bad design 101’ but you guys obviously know better and think the ACTPLA planners are geniuses who will fix it all with their new Interchange and surrounds plan.

Can you link those traffic stats please, although i’m not sure what you’re trying to say? The traffic is lower than 2 years ago because of COVID, but it doesn’t really say much about the traffic or road design.

And seeing as “you” obviously know better than the transport planners, perhaps instead of saying “it’s bad design”, “it’s bad design”, you could actually outline the metrics you’re using to support that claim and then address how this relates to what JC and myself have said.

The problem is, the things you think are “bad design” are actually “by design”. They are deliberately trying to reduce traffic from the growing town centre area with the ongoing changes such that public transport is more viable/efficient and through traffic is redirected around actual town centre area. The additional traffic lights are there because they were needed at the time due to the increased amount of traffic volume trying to get into the area. The exact thing they are trying to reduce into the future.

The problem is, you think that “good design” would be trying to make the roads in the area better able to handle increased traffic loads into the Woden centre. But that’s exactly what they are trying to stop. You can call it “bad design” if you want, but it doesn’t change the reality that the government is doing it on purpose.

Chewy as requested –

https://imgur.com/a/pLPUWmX Link to image from recent traffic study map of Woden that I mentioned – The source Data should be publicly available from Canberra Transport (and to answer your comment, if anything Covid should have increased traffic on Melrose drive, not the other way round as you suggest).

The poor re-design of Melrose drive and the flow on effects we now see with all the extra traffic lights was highlighted in earlier expert analysis and backed by a pre 2012 Woden master plan. The additional lights on Melrose ignored the concerns raised by urban planning and traffic experts at the time, unfortunately their concerns have come true. These reports are no longer available on the web (thanks ACT government web pages which are full of broken and missing links). But details should be available from Woden Valley Community Council report circa 2012.
These are copied from a draft paper version of the final report.
Implications for Melrose Drive, with (eventually) six sets of traffic lights from Hindmarsh Drive to Launceston Street, ignores the importance of Melrose Drive as an arterial road. Traffic studies provided with the DA suggest that motorists will avoid Melrose Drive and use other roads around Woden. Delays on arterial roads such as Melrose Drive encourages rat-running. The LDA has simply overlooked traffic studies prepared in relation to the Master Plan.

This was true then and it remains true today. I notice recent concerns from Fiona Carrick regrading the urban design around Woden.

Woden and the much needed public transport Interchange re-design need top expert re-design at a holistic level, NOT design where property developers and the construction tenderers have undue influence over ACTPLA people.

Thanks for the link, I’ve looked previously for the traffic data on the ACT government website but it isn’t freely available, compared to the public transport ones that are.

As for the rest, what you’re actually saying is exactly the same as what I am. The government changes will prevent the type of “rat running” you’re talking about because cars will be removed from the town centre area.

It isnt a goal of this work to make Melrose Dr a better road for through traffic. The road simply isn’t capable of handling the amount of traffic in the future.

Which is why they are building the public transport infrastructure to provide a more efficient alternative. They want these drivers on buses and trams.

Appreciate the response Chewy and digging deeply into the issue, but If we’re saying the same thing, then I don’t know why I’m getting so much blowback around saying ACTPLA has stuffed up Woden Transport Planning over the last decade.

I’m still very concerned the new Interchange will again push traffic onto ‘the next set’ of small roads in and around Woden. If they’d listened to the experts before they put all the lights along Melrose, then Melrose would have continued to be a ‘reasonably’ effective arterial road that took the traffic heat out of the backstreets of Woden.

I’d be very interested to know what Dr Jenny Stewart thinks, she was always on the money with her predictions and concerns.

At some of the ACT Government public consultations on Woden and Tuggeranong I’ve attended, the government reps (who I often knew through business connections) would always privately call some of their planning claims from the publicly released report into question. I guess they have to toe the party line in public.

I would like to see those figures compared to 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, 2011 and now. I’m willing to bet there is an upwards trend in each and every year. With levels now getting to near original design levels.

Cmon JC your clutching at straws now in trying to explain your views on the success of past, current and future Woden planning and supporting your electoral team. Of course there’s been usage growth since 1971.

But you also have to remember Woden population has been flat for quite a while and Tuggeranong population has even declined a little. So you can’t put a population spin on the last decade. Particularly south of Launceston st which is the area we are talking about.

Road use changes from Melrose into other streets around Woden coincide with tripling the number of traffic lights on the short stretch. This isn’t rocket science. I’m sure if they put six sets of traffic lights along a 1km stretch of trunk road on your side of town, then you would see road users taking alternative routes through nearby streets. This is the basic rules of road design that experts talk and write about and what ACTPLA chose to ignore.

Woden growth is flat. Phillip on the other hand has increased 100 fold in the last 15 years. Maybe that’s why there is more use on roads in Phillip.

Another prime example of the incompetence of the government, minister Steele and ACTPLA. Just tick off a project that should never been approved and ignore all community concerns. Building the great barrier of Woden which traffic modelling actually shows will overload the already overloaded surrounding roads. Don’t go to Woden at Christmas time, you’ll never be able to escape.

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