26 June 2023

Long road ahead to make the Tuggeranong 'crashway' a safer, smarter and more reliable drive

| Ian Bushnell
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The Tuggeranong Parkway looking north from the National Arboretum towards the Glenloch Interchange and is a common pinch point. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

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.

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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.

freeway entry and exit

The Cotter Road southbound exit and northbound ramp on the Tuggeranong Parkway are common crash sites. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

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.

The chevrons were installed in 2019 to help prevent tailgating. Photo: Region.

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.

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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.

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I’d be interested to know the speed limit at the chevrons. It would need to be 40km/ph for those spacings to be anywhere near correct. As a driver trainer for well over thirty years all over Sydney (9 RTA Registries for tests), the answers to my questions about following distances would have to be heard to be believed. In a word, just plain stoopid. In my time in Canberra, 60/70s, I did a lot of all types of driving (car) and considered Canberra drivers to be the best in the country, at least east of S/Australia.

Quote from original post…. “Either Canberrans are lousy drivers or there is something dysfunctional about these sections of the Parkway.”

I have lived in every State or Territory (except SA) and also External territories and and I can confirm that Canberrans are lousy drivers.

REALLY lousy drivers. REALLY.

It would help if drivers entering from Cotter Road could actually merge. The idea is to match the speed of the traffic you’re trying to merge with, not 25-40km/h less and then wonder why “no one let’s me in”

Alex Stephens6:43 pm 21 Jun 23

Canberra must be one of the few places in Australia where you can be over taken approaching a red light 400 meters back in sight of the intersection, where the traffic is stopped and tailed back 200m and the cross traffic is still moving, so much for saving the planet and wear and tear on the car.

Moron merges at 60kmh. Moron then wonders why accidents occur

Alex Stephens6:25 pm 21 Jun 23

Zip merging in the ACT is illegal is it not?

Alex Stephens – IT IS NOT!

Alessandro Peressutti5:47 pm 21 Jun 23

A couple of observations from someone who just moved down here a few months ago.
Tailgating is really bad in the ACT, it occurs everytime I drive and it’s infuriating.
As for merging, drivers don’t give way no matter what, and often try to move to the right hand lane, thus creating an hazard for other cars.
On the other hand, the cars trying to merge are most of the time going way too slow, probably because they are wary that they won’t have room to slot in the traffic.
One last thing, indicating should be given as a forewarning of your intentions and as such it should be given in advance. What I see regularly it’s drivers already switching lanes and then turning on the indicators. A lot of lazy and reckless driving in a city without traffic.

Alex Stephens6:34 pm 21 Jun 23

Agree, with your observations , observe – as soon as the chevrons end the cars close up, FA idea of the 2/4 second rule. Almost zero use of indicators , slow turning at traffic lights, FA consideration for other drivers, almost always over the speed limit, herd mentality on approach to fixed speed cameras particularly heading south approaching the cotter road off ramp. Not helped by narrowing carriageways and lack of rear vision mirror use, etc.

Jenny Graves5:37 pm 21 Jun 23

I’m pretty lucky that I don’t have to navigate the Parkway at peak times as a rule. But one morning, I tried to join it from the Lady Denman Drive onramp going north and not one person would let me in; in fact, they bunched up to block my entry! I ended up going up William Hovell Drive instead, which took me miles out of my way. If drivers do that sort of thing regularly, no wonder there are so many accidents. Some people would have pushed their way in with disastrous results.

Try matching the speed of the traffic you’re trying to merge with, then they won’t have to “let you in”

I think once the drivers of Canberra figure out, at 110km/h it’ll take 6 minutes. At 100km/h it’ll take 6 minutes and 36 seconds. At 80km/h it will take 8 minutes and 15 seconds.

Dropping the speed to 80 will allow people to merge and exit easier…

To Bill Gemmell… Tooo many lanes?? Do you suggest it should be a single lane carriageway or do you have it confused with Parkes Way?

Your kidding drop the speed to 80, yeah don;t fix a road drop the limit thats the simple answer, lets get horses

It’s a straight road that people crash on through inattention and tail gating…

That 2 minutes must mean a lot to you…

Well looking at what’s another 2min on top of that 2 lets make the limit 60

Nah, that would be another 3 minutes, but I can see you’re trying.

When there is a collision the speed drops to 15km/h. If slower travelling cars stops that collision from happening, doesn’t that mean you will actually be going faster?

80km/h won’t help – many Canberrans still struggle to get to 80km/h to merge from Carruthers Street onto Yarra Glen.
And too many lanes? Tugg. Parkway was actually supposed to be 3 lanes each way (that’s why there’s an extra cutting) – trying to squeeze 2 lanes each way into a carriageway designed for 3 lanes one way has left the lanes quite narrow, especially on the bridges where there isn’t even a shoulder.

Terrible design around the Glenloch Interchange that encourages drivers to cross over each other’s path at key road points (sometimes such as coming up from the Arboretum when the driver should be merging at their second option a few hundred metres further up the road).

A transport designer originally highlighted how bad the re-design was before being built, but they ignored his advice and then admitted later his design was a simpler solution requiring less infrastructure and bridgework.

Drop the speed limit to 80kmph. The GDE is 90 and has about half the traffic and the Barton Hwy is 80 and carries a fraction of the traffic. If it’s good enough for the North, then the south where drivers are known to be worse should face reduced speed limits too.

gary phillips7:23 pm 21 Jun 23

Dumb that the Barton past the roundabout with no on/off roads is 80. But the crazily complex interchange is 90. Should be 80 and then 90 thru

Like so many posters here, I’ve seen extraordinary tailgating (not just on the Parkway) and hopeless merging onto the Parkway. Suspect a large % of drivers don’t know the road rules. Everyone knows about speeding – because it’s the only road rule mentioned ad nauseam, so much that law abiding drivers become frightened bambis when they see a speed camera. Going too fast increases risk of accidents and injury but, how many accidents are actually caused by speeding and not something else ? With all the research on road design and all the studies into accidents why is there so little reporting on results ? What has caused the accidents in the past ?

Spot on Garry. The speed camera at the bottom of the hill just before the cotter road merge is ridiculous. All it does (besides raising revenue) is force the northbound Parkway traffic to concetina as the bambis hit their brakes removing any gaps in the traffic for a clean merge.

Inability to merge & Tailgating. Combine those two driver behaviors and every on ramp becomes a car park as soon as there are more than a dozen cars. See this clueless carry on every single day.

Considering the amount of traffic that traverses that stretch of road, that really isn’t a lot of of accidents.

Echoing the same sentiment as others, a big part of the issue is merging; Getting stuck behind a truck and being forced to merge at 60 at the Weston/Waramanga entrance is scary.

This is one of the reasons that I arrive at work by 07:30-07:45 to avoid the traffic.

Gregg Heldon6:35 am 21 Jun 23

Considering that they have packed the site up on the Monaro Hwy and the purple sign for the Athllon Drive duplication are now fading, I doubt we’ll ever see those project happen.
Not with this Government anyway.

The signs were an election gimmick.

Most of the problems are caused by incompetent and/or impatient drivers.

A large number of Canberra drivers who are oblivious of the requirement to get up to 100kph or the speed of traffic on entry ramps well before the merge, or maintain a speed of 100kph until the exit ramp.

Add in all the drivers who think they’re more important than everyone else and travel in the right lane for 10kms and then force their way back into the left lane at the last second when they need it exit, or think their indicator means I change lanes now, rather than give way to other vehicles.

If we had some better funded police, maybe they’d have some resources to police these things.

The only problem with the road is that the on and off ramps are too short and should be longer to allow more traffic to get to speed/slow.

Roger Shelton2:03 pm 21 Jun 23

Trouble is what do you do at 100kph if drivers in the adjoining lane don’t make a ‘merge’ space? Note also if there is a separating broken lane line, it is not a ‘merge’ but a lane change requiring the joining driver to yield right of way….

Average speed cameras would be a great start. Might put a stop to the morons who speed along the parkway only to stand on the brakes so they can slow down to 90 for the fixed speed cameras.

At the risk of being shouted down, wasn’t almost 90 mill of funding diverted from upgrades which would have improved the Tuggers Parkway, especially from the Molonglo entry points up to Glenloch?

GrumpyGrandpa5:29 pm 20 Jun 23

I avoid the Parkway, where possible. If anything goes wrong, you are stuck there.

Glenlock is poorly designed. EG the signage for the exit lane (heading from Tuggy into the City), is confusing and if you aren’t a regular user, you’d probably be making a last minute decision about which lane you should be in.

The Chevons, should be along the entire length of the road, not just a small section. Even if some people are too dumb to use them, they are a great reminder.

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