Road planning in a roundabout way

COMMENT by ALEX NELSON

 

The construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Undoolya Road and Sturt Terrace completes an odd example of the management of traffic flow in Alice Springs.

 

There are now four roundabouts in a row – one at every street corner – along Undoolya Road from Sturt Terrace at one end to the intersection of Stott Terrace and Grevillea Drive to the east, in a distance less than a kilometre.

 

There’s another roundabout on Lindsay Avenue (just past the Renner Street intersection) a short distance from the roundabout at the Lindsay Avenue – Undoolya Road intersection.

 

Although Undoolya Road is a significant arterial road, is traffic flow along this stretch of street in the Old Eastside really so chronic to warrant this level of infrastructure?

 

There are also four roundabouts at adjoining intersections in the CBD but there’s no question the traffic is far greater in the town’s centre at most times of the day than it is along Undoolya Road. There is no other equivalent situation in Alice Springs.

 

Does someone within the bureaucracy of the Alice Springs Town Council own shares in a roundabout construction business?

 

The new roundabout at the Sturt Terrace intersection was quoted last year as costing $300,000, with the funds derived from the federal Black Spots program. Taking this figure as a guide, the total cost of the roundabouts along Undoolya Road must exceed $1 million. Is this a reasonable and efficient use of public money?

 

All of these roundabouts have been built on separate occasions over a number of years, seemingly in a piecemeal and ad hoc fashion rather than adhering to any overall structured planning process.

 

The new roundabout is a case in point – tenders were called for its construction by the Alice town council in 2004 but it never proceeded. What was the town council’s basis for this project nearly a decade ago, and why wasn’t it built? What has changed now to justify its construction? (And why is the town council so silent?)

 

As the money for its construction came from the Black Spots program, can the town council provide the evidence to prove this intersection really was a “black spot” or has this funding been obtained apparently under false pretences?

 

The trigger for this project apparently was due to a single incident in 2009, when a drunk driver ran off the road by the boundary of the Li’l Antz childcare centre – there have been no other accidents at that corner I’m aware of in over a decade, nor any fatalities.

 

But if this intersection is so dangerous, why was approval given for Li’l Antz to commence operation in the premises of this corner site in 2004?

The initial response to the drunk driver incident by the local Member for Greatorex, Matt Conlan, was to call for bollards to be installed on the Li’l Antz corner; but there was no mention of a roundabout at the time.

 

Now, in addition to the roundabout, there is also a shiny new safety railing fence erected on that corner – which is just as well, given the occasional propensity of vehicles to fling off roundabouts at speed.

 

Indeed, on the first night (at 8.50 pm) the roundabout was in place I observed a young hoodlum attempt to “burn out” in this intersection – he entered it from the north; and if he had miscalculated he might have jumped the kerb at the front of Casa Nostra Pizza House, which was busy at the time and for which there is no protection from a safety railing fence.

 

Returning to the original theme of four roundabouts in a row on Undoolya Road, what would be a better alternative? Personally I’ve no problem with the roundabout at the intersection with Stott Terrace and Grevillea Drive but for the rest, it’s overkill.

 

A set of traffic lights at the intersection with Lindsay Avenue – the halfway point – would have been adequate to regulate traffic flow along Undoolya Road to everyone’s satisfaction – and it certainly would have been a far less expensive option for ratepayers and taxpayers that have long suffered at the hands of a bumbling bureaucracy.

 

PHOTOS: Undoolya Road roundabouts (from top): The at the Winnecke intersection, and newest one at Sturt Terrace, showing the Li’l Antz and Casa Nostra corners, respectively.

 

The Alice Springs News Online has asked the town council for a comment.

 

    4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

    NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
    1. Ian Sharp
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      I like traffic lights, I like traffic lights, especially when they’re green …

    2. Scott Balfour
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      I like roundabouts. When the one at the end of Winnekie Avenue was put in it made a huge difference to the traffic flow, especially at school times. When used properly roundabouts are far better than traffic lights.

    3. Ray
      Posted August 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      As long as people learn how to use them properly, ie. indicating and not stopping and waiting for a car that is on the right, they are great.
      Only experienced this new one driving over East side last night. The design looks good, especially with the pedestrian crossing points, which look like they will work well for disabled people on scooters etc.

    4. Bob Taylor
      Posted August 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      Unfortunately traffic lights are a little bit like above ground fire hydrants; they get knocked over, damaged and are high maintenance. I agree that the existing roundabouts are a bit of an overkill, but their construction did add to the economy of Alice Springs and I assume they are lower maintenance than traffic lights and if used correctly will maintain a steady flow of traffic and possibly reduce speeding.

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