Industrial precinct congestion sparks concerns

Chris Emmerson stands at the end of Enterprise Avenue, with all kerbside parking occupied in the background. Picture: ETHAN BENEDICTO.

By Ethan Benedicto

A rude awakening one Thursday morning made one father realise the severity of traffic conditions at Enterprise Avenue, especially when it comes to the peak hours throughout the day.

What could be considered as Berwick’s industrial hub, the little nook is located just across Berwick Station, where numerous businesses, from gyms, and butchers to auto service repair shops have made their home for the last several years.

The growth has been exponential, and while that may be a boon, the situation is a little different for the everyday traffic that wades through the avenue’s streets, ultimately adding to the area’s congestion.

Chris Emmerson, on the morning of June 6, saw his lane blocked by a truck unloading cars designated for one of the many auto service shops, while on the way to drop his daughter off at Cire Community School.

“You can’t legally unload on a road and I’m a truck driver myself; you have to have a natural area for car parking and unloading and everything like that.

“There has to be a better solution than trying to block traffic off and creating a dangerous situation that people are driving up gutters and around for [truck drivers] to unload their trucks,” he said.

According to VicRoads, heavy or long vehicles cannot be parked on a road in a built-up area for longer than one hour unless there are parking signs that allow them, or if the driver is picking up or setting down goods.

These designated areas for loading and unloading however, are little to none, and other options are scarce with majority of the kerbside parking spaces occupied by respective workers of these businesses; as well as the parking areas inside businesses’ property allowing no space for trucks to navigate.

With years of experience as a truck driver, Mr Emmerson realises that the situation, alongside the environment of Enterprise Avenue, is not the truck drivers’ fault, but rather extends to the overall planning of the industrial area.

“I don’t blame them as drivers; I believe there’s got to be a discussion with council planning on what we can do better.

“It’s not the truck driver’s fault, they have nowhere else to go,” he said.

In addition, this rule does not apply to heavy or long vehicles subsequently parked in the middle of a lane, whether they are loading and or unloading or not.

Further regulations also covered by RACV dictate that heavy vehicles should avoid obstructing traffic and only utilise designated areas for loading and unloading.

Berwick Mitsubishi’s dealer principal, Daniel Buruma resonates with Mr Emmerson’s sentiments, saying that to watch Enterprise Avenue “grow and grow is challenging”.

Their service branch has been on the corner of Enterprise Ave and Intrepid Street since 2010, with the business seeing its fair share of neighbours and the eventual growth of the area to what it is today.

“You’ve got a number of automotive businesses down there, lots of trade businesses around the side, you’ve got the butchers, two different detailing shops, independent workshops – it’s just a busy strip.

“We’re always accommodating to the point where we’ve outgrown that [area], I’d love to stay there but I have to start [thinking about] moving down to Pakenham in the long term just because we’re landlocked.

“It’s just a crazy sort of precinct, so I think it’s just working together to be safe and responsible, and I don’t think the council can do it any differently though, we can’t go back in time and plan it again,” Mr Buruma said.

Mr Emmerson is on the same boat and has already sent an enquiry to Casey Council regarding traffic management plans for Enterprise Avenue.

A bigger worry for him though, is the safety of his daughter and the schoolchildren in Cire Community School; a not-for-profit organisation that provides flexible learning opportunities for those experiencing social and economic disadvantages and mental health challenges.

Speaking on his experiences as a truck driver, he said “I know myself, I wouldn’t do it without either having traffic cones out there because you’ve got to mitigate the situation.

“You’ve got cars coming both ways, is there someone there telling people who can come and who can’t? Because it’s a blind corner.

“Cire is a community school [with] special needs students, you’ve got kids coming in and out of there and you’re dealing with a major traffic problem.

“Realistically, with those big trucks, that kid could walk in front and the truck driver would never see them,” he said.

A proper discussion needs to be had, according to Mr Emmerson, one that involves all parties, such as Cire, the automotive shops, gyms and others, as well as the council to properly navigate all factors involved in the traffic situation for Enterprise Avenue.

However, Mr Buruma is uncertain as to whether a change to traffic management would impact the congestion of the precinct, saying that “businesses need to operate, people need to keep them running”.

“I’d love to click my fingers and suddenly there’s a multi-level car park, and the lanes are a lot wider like down at Pakenham, but I just don’t see that town planning can get through it; they probably didn’t expect Berwick to be as big as it is right?

“They have to find another entry into the school, through Federation University or something like that, which might be a smarter way to do it rather than coming down Enterprise,” he said.

The City of Casey’s manager of city and asset planning, Keri New, said that “council received an inquiry relating to trucks while double parked in Enterprise Avenue that is being investigated”.

“Where appropriate, council may consider changes to on-street parking arrangements [and] prior to any changes made to on-street parking, impacted businesses in the area would be consulted with,” she said.

As of now, Enterprise Avenue remains one of the busier areas in Berwick, with some changes plausible in the future.