By Jamie Salter
As Narre Warren North Road (NWNR) Upgrade works progress between Fox Road and Belgrave-Hallam Road to accommodate the area’s growth, an action group of local residents has been formed to protest the project’s design.
The Major Road Projects Victoria (MRPV) upgrade aims to improve road safety by adding an extra lane in each direction to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes.
A concern shared by the Action Group is the implementation of U-turns along NWNR, with resident Alan Timms saying the U-turns were putting children at-risk.
“They’re putting U-turns in front of the school crossing and a child care centre – tell me kids are road-safe. There’s going to be kids killed,“ Mr Timms said.
But NWNR Upgrade program director Brendan Pauwels said the U-turns along NWNR would not be a safety issue.
“The nearest school is Mary MacKillop on Ernst Wanke Road and we don’t see that anyone would travel that far to do a U-turn, there’s going to be facilities in advance to that to do a U-turn so we don’t see that that will be a problem,“ he said.
“Road Safety experts advise that U-turns are a safer movement than uncontrolled rights turns, especially if undertaken at signals.
“Our U-turns will be with traffic lights, with stopped traffic so vehicles have time to get around.“
Another concern of the Action Group was the ability for horse floats to make U-turns safely when travelling to and from the Hallam Valley Pony Club.
As a result of meetings between the Action Group and MRVP, the turning movement into Memorial Drive has been modified to widen area for horse floats making U-turns.
“We got the president of the Pony Club to give us the dimensions of his vehicle and as a result we were able to alter the curve line so that vehicle can safely do a U-turn at these locations,“ Mr Pauwels said.
“We tested it in other locations as well and that movement will happen on a green light…traffic will be stopped when they do those movements.“
The upgraded NWNR allows people turn right into Brundrett Road but not out, and Crawley Road will be left in and left out only.
As part of preparing the business case, a number of options were tested to see what was the best outcome and the design was independently reviewed and vetted by the City of Casey council and the Department of Transport.
“Having vehicles turning across multiple lanes in an uncontrolled manner is one of the more unsafe movements and this stretch of road has had twice the average accident rate over the last five years,“ Mr Pauwels said.
It was decided that Memorial Drive and Crawley Road were too close together to both have traffic signals, and that Memorial Drive will have full access, benefiting CFA fire trucks when they depart the station.
The Action Group said it was disappointed by the lack of lights at Crawley Road and resident Russell Moreno said the decision will lead drivers to cut through Cantwell Road.
“The biggest issue is that everyone that turns down NWNR are going to try and cut through Cantwell instead of doing U-turns,“ Mr Moreno said.
“It’s going to be dangerous having all that traffic coming through – even horse floats will cut through our street.
“They’re going to put speed humps which is a bit of a pain.“
Mr Pauwels said feedback showed if drivers can’t turn right at Crawley Road, they will enter Brundrett Road and use Cantwell Road to get back to Crawley Road.
“At the moment there are 400 vehicles a day that use that road and we think there might be another 200 vehicles a day using Cantwell Road, so we’re working with council as to whether it would be appropriate to put some traffic calming measures to make sure that road is still safe for residents there,“ he said.
The project was expected to cost $38.8 million when it was announced as part of a 2018 election campaign but rose to $63 million once a business case was developed.
“The business case has determined it’s still a valuable investment for that price and that it’s worth building,“ Mr Pauwels said.
The project will provide two lanes each way all the way down from Heatherton Road past Casey Central and down to Thompsons Road.
“We’ve done our best to address the heart of the Action Group’s concerns,“ Mr Pauwels said.
The NWRR Upgrade is set to be completed by late 2023.
Those who would like to can contact the Action Group at firstname.lastname@example.org