8 July 2021

Government given long to-do list for Woden interchange

| Ian Bushnell
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Woden Interchange

The Woden Interchange’s linear design on Callam Street will eventually incorporate light rail. Image: ACT Government.

Concern about insufficient tree plantings, traffic delays and exposure to the weather have been raised by the planning authority in its approval of the Woden transport interchange project on Callam Street.

Transport Minister Chris Steel announced the start of the project on Monday (5 July) when the decision, which came with a host of conditions, was released.

The decision says that the number of trees to be planted to offset the significant removals and the reduction in tree canopy through Callam Street will need to be increased and additional space found to accommodate them.

This includes the loss of replantings in the median at the northern end of Callam Street when light rail is installed, which the decision says will leave a significant hole in the urban canopy.

The decision says the government will need to fix a number of traffic issues that will flow from the interchange’s linear design, mainly through new traffic lights, synchronised signalling and scheduling.

“It is acknowledged that the ‘linear’ design of the interchange, along with its closely spaced signalised intersections, will inherently result in buses blocking each other at times,” it says.

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The decision says the traffic analysis shows long delays for buses at various intersections such as when exiting the bus interchange at either end, specifically, the Callam Street north approach at Matilda Street, and the Callam Street south approach at Bradley Street.

“The Hindmarsh Drive intersections with Melrose Drive and Athllon Drive are critical to the operation of buses in the Woden area,” it says.

“Buses are currently experiencing delays at these intersections so any future impact to these intersections will have a detrimental effect on the service that could be achieved.”

The planning authority is also worried about the diversion of traffic to Easty Street and the proposed Bradley Street-Bowes Street connection that will turn Bowes Street into a major collector road.

The government will also have to do something about the staircase from the current interchange to Woden Town Square, seen as a significant barrier to achieving a good east-west pedestrian connection for all users, particularly elderly people or parents with prams who wish to get to facilities such as the Woden Library and health centre.

The design of the interchange is also queried in that it appears to be very open to the elements and the government will need to look at the protection of passenger amenity from the elements.

The proposal did not include public toilet or bicycle storage facilities and the authority says these facilities should be part of the DA for the associated CIT campus or at other sites suitable for commuters.

The proponent has also been asked to show the bus turning templates, check if 3.55 metres is enough room to fit a bus shelter and whether the setbacks for shelters are sufficient next to bike/pedestrian lanes or for the overhang not to come into contact with buses. They have also been asked to ensure the seating, which does not appear to have handrails, complies with disability rules.

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The Woden Valley Community Council does not support the linear design and is seeking more information about safety, the number of services that will flow through the interchange, how the buses will turn around and whether there is enough capacity for the future.

It says the interchange is very ‘tight’, and the council is not confident the design ‘futureproofs’ against population growth and increased demand for services.

“There is no ‘wow factor’ in this bus interchange. It is very average,” President Fiona Carrick said.

The council also believes that Bowes Street should be retained as a local road and activated, and will investigate any encroachment on Woden Town Park.

Mr Steel says the new interchange should be completed in 2022 when the current loop interchange will be demolished to make way for the multi-level CIT campus.

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No bicycle storage facilities – the authority noted they should be part of the CIT DA or elsewhere. How vague is that? The bike parking code applies to public transport facilities. Apply it and build bike storage. Otherwise people will simply lock their bikes to the poles nearest to their bus stop.

This is typical of this government – just push everything through and worry about the consequences later. No attention to detailed planning. No listening to public opinion and their own Planning Authority. Why are they approving a DA that does not have everything ticked off completely. It is quite obvious that this project is going to be a complete disaster from the beginning.

So the design has fundamental flaws and they approved it anyway? The system really is stuffed if ACTPLA can’t or won’t these clear cut deficient plans.

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