Tuesday 7 July 2020

Highway fix plea

 

The Coldstream community is growing frustrated as uncertainty lingers as to whether traffic lights will be installed to ease the town’s traffic problems.

Killara Road and Station Street is plagued with issues as drivers struggle to turn right on and off the Maroondah Highway during peak hour, while pedestrians are forced to scramble across the road to reach the bus stops.

Local residents, including members of Coldstream CFA and Evelyn MP Bridget Vallence have been campaigning for years to see upgrades in the area.

The Federal Government committed $20 million in funding in the 2019 Federal Budget to duplicate the Maroondah Highway and install traffic lights at the intersection.

But Ms Vallence said no plans had been made despite some of the money being made available to the State Government and the Department of Transport specifically for the project.

“For years and years, CFA volunteer firefighters, local businesses and residents have been calling for traffic lights to be installed at the Killara Road intersection, but the Andrews Government continues to ignore them.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Transport told Star Mail: “We have begun early investigations to develop potential improvements along the Maroondah Highway in Coldstream between Melba Highway and Ingram Road.

“We will continue to work closely with the Commonwealth Government, local council and the community.”

Of the $20 million commitment by the Federal Government, $1.58 million has been released in development funding in March 2020 for the department to plan and scope the project.

Ms Vallence spoke in parliament regarding the funding and was issued the following response from Minister for Roads, Jaala Pulford in January.

“Victoria welcomes additional Commonwealth funding for transport infrastructure to support our growing state … The Victorian Government is progressing a record pipeline of infrastructure projects across the state with more than $70 billion invested in projects that are committed or under way.

“Ensuring we manage the implementation of this pipeline carefully will ensure value for money is a priority.”

As the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic continues, Ms Vallence believes now would be an optimal time to commence a construction project that would assist in creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.

“What we’re calling on the government to do is get on with the job. Give us a start date and make sure that this road becomes safer for Coldstream residents. It won’t cost a cent to the Andrews State Government to work on this road.”

Coldstream CFA Captain Sean Bethell said his crews are often delayed in their response to incidents because of the difficulties entering the Maroondah Highway safely.

“For our drivers, we run the gauntlet of trying to get out. People either don’t see the red and blue lights on the firetrucks or choose to ignore them and just keep going. So it’s touch and go for our guys trying to get out onto the highway, which slows our response time down.

“As we’re always being measured by our standard response times to incidents, we get a red mark against us. So that doesn’t help us trying to get out to a scene that we’re needed to attend.”

Just last week Coldstream CFA responded to the scene of a fire that destroyed a restaurant at Yarra Glen’s Balgownie Estate.

Mr Bethell said he wants to see easier access for all road users at the location.

“Sometimes during peak hour periods you can be waiting five or ten minutes to try and turn right out onto the highway.

“Whenever there’s a couple of people who are trying to turn right, it banks up the traffic so the people who are turning left (onto the highway) are stuck in the same situation.”

Kevin Ryan has lived in Coldstream for a decade and previously put together a petition in support of the project, which garnered over 2000 signatures. He was disappointed his petition was ignored when brought before parliament.

“I approached all the businesses in the area,” he said. “I did a knock around on people’s doors, they thought I was trying to sell them power and phones and whatnot.

“But when they realised I wasn’t, everyone was really welcoming to it and asked if they could sign it with their left hand as well.”

Another resident, Pauline Patterson, has lived on Station Street for over 20 years. She said she doesn’t let her kids cross the highway by foot. She describes turning on to the highway as “a frustrating experience” and that it would only be exacerbated with the completion of the nearby Yarra Valley Trail.