The intersection of Undoolya Road and Wills Terrace, looking towards the causeway across Todd River. Photo by Alex Nelson.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Is there really a case for a roundabout at the Undoolya Road – Sturt Terrace intersection? And how much support is there for it from the residents of Eastside?
Mayor Damien Ryan is having his doubts.
Papers presented to councillors at last night’s meeting revealed that only four replies had been received in response to council’s 1500 invitations to comment.
Three of the four opposed this expenditure of $300,000 of taxpayers’ money.
“Better spent elsewhere”, said one.
“Expensive option” and better “to reduce the speed limit to 40kph across the causeway and through the intersection”, said another, also pointing to the need for guard rails to protect the child care centre on the intersection.
It won’t alleviate the main issue at the intersection, argued another, which is to do with sight-lines impeded by the Wills Terrace footbridge. This resident also argued that Alice Springs drivers don’t know how to use roundabouts and so contribute to traffic congestion, something councillors agreed with and will look to an education campaign to address.
The sole letter in support deemed the intersection “dangerous” at busy times of day and also talked of wait times to turn into Undoolya Road from Stuart Terrace of “up to four minutes”.
Mayor Ryan’s conclusion was that, with only four responses to 1500 invitations and with three of those against, the people of Eastside did not seem to want this roundabout. This was reinforced by views he had heard by callers to local radio.
Council’s Director of Technical Services, Greg Buxton, countered that non-response indicated “acceptance”.
“A very bureaucratic answer, with respect,” said Mayor Ryan, speaking to the meeting by phone.
He was also shocked at the low level of response in writing. Had council used its database to address letters to individuals, as should have been done in a “true consultation”, he wanted to know. Apparently not. The letter drop was to anonymous householders.
Mr Buxton said the whole process was started three years ago in response to residents’ concerns about the intersection. Mayor Ryan asked that he produce the letters from that time.
“Are you happy with that, Mr Buxton?” asked Cr Liz Martin, in the chair.
“I’m happy to follow instructions,” said Mr Buxton crisply.
The upshot is that a decision on whether or not the roundabout will go ahead has stalled at least until the next council meeting. (If rejected, the $300,000 would have to go back to the Commonwealth.)
Mayor Ryan did not get support from his fellow elected members on avoiding “another concrete roundabout” as have proliferated in the CBD in the past few years. He wanted something more pleasing to the eye.
Mr Buxton said landscaping of roundabouts contributes to deterioration of the roads around them because of water usage.
The drainage should be built so that that doesn’t happen, countered Mayor Ryan.
That would increase the cost, said Mr Buxton.
But the decider for the councillors was that the proposed roundabout should be “mountable”, that is, by heavy vehicles. So if it goes ahead, concrete it will be.
There was some discussion about an alternative to the roundabout, as proposed by a caller to Radio 8HA yesterday. This was to put a median strip on Sturt Terrace, forcing drivers travelling south towards Undoolya Road and wanting to turn right, to instead turn left and go up to the roundabout at the Lindsay Avenue intersection.
However Mr Buxton said that would not take account of concerns over traffic travelling through the causeway, heading east, one of which is that if the vehicle is moving at speed, it could become airborne.
COMMENT: According to the meeting papers, funding was first applied for in the 2010-11 financial year. That was unsuccessful, but a second application in 2011-12 hit the jackpot. This was announced at the end of May.
The consultation, such as it has been, was done subsequently.
If such decisions are to be guided by the community, is this not a case of cart before the horse, as appears also to be the case, on a grander scale, with the regional waste management facility (see separate story this issue).
See also ALEX NELSON’s comment piece: The Magic Roundabout of Alice in Blunderland.