By Andrew Cantwell
Angry commuters in the South East get little comfort from knowing they are in one of the state’s fastest growing regions.
That sense of progress – boasted about in other circles – is the last thing in their minds as they crawl in peak hour traffic towards crowded intersections and connecting roads on their twice daily commute.
Put simply, cars are driving people crazy in the South East.
There are too many, and in too many cases they converge on local roads and streets that are inadequate for the numbers.
Commuters weren’t backwards about airing their views this week.
Drivers’ grievances were detailed in a special Congestion Day, organised by Star News Group newsroom on Monday.
Reporters were on the road at nominated trouble spots during morning peak traffic times and afternoon school pick-up times, presenting live video on Facebook from regular commuters, parents, shoppers, uni students and business owners. These congestion hot-spots were identified through a special poll run by Star News over the past several weeks in the lead-up to the State Election in November.
“The roundabout there needs to go, it’s got more traffic passing through it than it can handle,” Pakenham businessman Tim Leed said of the Racecourse Road roundabout.
“The traffic regularly banks up on Bald Hill Road more than 700 metres back to Bormar Drive of an afternoon – it’s ridiculous people trying to go anywhere it’s just gridlocked, you can’t move.”
It’s not just businesses that feel the effects of too much traffic.
“I attend a class at Federation uni and during the morning it’s awful on Clyde Road … it’s hectic … it takes 15 minutes to get 100 metres, it’s awful,” student Angelo Groza said.
There’s also a strong perception that the situation only worsens with every new housing estate that’s opened.
“They’re bringing in thousands of people into their new estates but they’re only opening up a small section of road to let the people in and out of their estates with no thought to anyone else travelling through the area or living in the area,” Cranbourne resident Ric Stewart said.
In location after location on Monday, the same issues were raised: the numbers of vehicles using already tortured local roads, the relentless approval of new housing, busy level crossings, the slow pace of infrastructure improvement, and few workable alternative routes.
Pakenham mum Jess lives on McGregor Road, a highly nominated congestion hot-spot. Her daughter Meagan goes to school at the other end of the problem road. What should take seven minutes – according to GPS estimates – can often become a 45-minute round trip as Jess contends with traffic.
“It’s really ridiculous,” Jess said. “It’s quicker for us to go all the way around … and actually through Main Street with all of its pedestrian crossings than it is to come just straight just down the road – it’s heaps out of our way, but it works out quicker with the traffic.”
Her story is repeated many times, in many other locations, by people fed up with peak traffic on local roads.
Necessity drives them – nothing else would make them go into that traffic. There’s work to get to, appointments to keep, kids to drop off and pick up, classes to attend, businesses to run and customers to satisfy.
Through the anger, there were undertones of quiet desperation – and resignation – as the situation seems to worsen by the season.
One suggested a rethink on the rate of development approvals, until infrastructure catches up with current demand.
Chris Barnes, of Narre Warren, put it succinctly: “There needs to be spending on infrastructure, a bit more planning in the earlier stages for the roads. There also needs to be a discussion about slowing down the release of land in the area … and having a bit more robust discussion about that.”
This week we launch a new poll – we’ve compiled lists of the most nominated congestion roads in the South East and we’re inviting you to vote on which you think is the most congested road in your region.
We plan to take the results of that poll and ask the politicians and candidates what they plan to do about it as our congestion campaign gears up in the lead-up to the November State poll.
Make your vote count – now and in November – just visit the Star Community website competitions page and look for the latest Unblock The Gridlock poll starcommunity.com.au/competitions/