The Tuggeranong Parkway runs just 11 kilometres, but is it the most accident-prone stretch of road in the ACT?
Since December last year, the Emergency Services Agency has issued eight alerts about Parkway accidents, most between the Glenloch Interchange and the Cotter Road ramps during peak times, bringing the major arterial to a standstill.
But many others go unrecorded, and drivetime radio is littered with reports of traffic chaos on the Parkway due to yet another crash, sometimes involving multiple vehicles, and the subsequent spillover effects as motorists seek alternative routes.
During peak times, more than 4000 vehicles per hour use the Tuggeranong Parkway – and more than 40,000 daily – so it may not be surprising that there are a large number of accidents.
The addition of traffic from the growing suburbs of the Molonglo Valley, where access is limited to the Cotter Road heading into and out of the city, has only added to the problem.
The combination of heavy traffic, few exits and little roadside room mean motorists can endure long delays until police and emergency services can clear accident scenes.
The ACT Government is aware of the problem. In 2019, it painted chevrons on the road to help prevent tailgating and rear-end accidents, along with a media campaign urging drivers to keep their distance and drive courteously.
It says a post-evaluation crash study of the chevrons’ effectiveness and accompanying signs will be conducted in 2025, allowing enough time to gather and analyse crash data.
But many of the crash points are where traffic needs to merge, either at the Cotter Road ramps or where there are multiple lanes near the Arboretum. These crunch points show up repeatedly in ESA alerts.
Either Canberrans are lousy drivers or there is something dysfunctional about these sections of the Parkway.
An ACT Government spokesperson said road safety on the Parkway was being continually reviewed and improvements made, including new ‘smart’ technology such as CCTV and Bluetooth sensors to monitor traffic and inform future improvements.
But there are no plans at this stage for any structural changes.
In 2021, there were plans to make the Parkway Canberra’s first “smart road” by introducing variable speed limits using an intelligent transport system tool to set and display speed limits appropriate for road and weather conditions and traffic volumes.
This was to involve electronic variable message signs (VMS), integrated speed and lane use signs and CCTV cameras, some mounted on gantries.
According to the tender documents for the $1.5 to $1.7 million project, the smart system, which was to base its decisions on a range of data it would continually collect, was to be monitored and controlled remotely by TCCS’s traffic management centre. But the government spokesperson said that during the feasibility and design work, it became apparent the project should be considered within the context of the broader South-West Corridor strategic study.
“This corridor study between Drakeford Drive and Glenloch Interchange is currently underway and will incorporate consideration of an enhanced smart road system as well as broader safety and efficiency improvements on the corridor, taking into account the growth around Molonglo,” the spokesperson said.
Some measures have been or are about to be introduced.
In 2021, CCTV cameras were installed at the Cotter Road/Tuggeranong Parkway Southbound Ramp in Curtin, and a new electronic travel time board has been installed on the Parkway northbound between the Hindmarsh Drive and Cotter Road exits.
New CCTV cameras and Bluetooth detectors are being rolled out across the road network, including near Forrest Drive and the Glenloch Interchange on the Parkway.
The government spokesperson said other road projects should help ease the pressure on the Parkway, such as extending John Gorton Drive in Molonglo and the construction of the bridge across the Molonglo River to provide a safer, quicker link with Belconnen, the duplication of Athllon Drive and the upgrading of the Monaro Highway on the southside.
“Early planning for an east-west arterial road through the Molonglo Valley, connecting with the Tuggeranong Parkway south of the Arboretum, is also underway, which will provide a third arterial road connection in and out of Molonglo,” the spokesperson said.
In the meantime, drive carefully and stay tuned to the traffic reports.