In Parliament - Thursday, 9 June 2016
Mr DULUK (Davenport) (11:31): I move:
That this house urges the Weatherill Labor government to prioritise the development of a fourth lane for Flagstaff Road in order to—
improve commute times for local residents;
provide the safest possible conditions for road users;
provide efficient access for emergency services to the suburbs connected to this road; and
take pressure off South Road.
Flagstaff Road is a 3.3 kilometre stretch of road that intersects with Main Road and the Southern Expressway to the north and Black Road and Happy Valley Drive to the south. It has a total of three lanes, with a reversible centre lane for about 800 metres towards the northern end of the road. The reversible lane is designed to meet the tidal nature of movements to and from the surrounding suburbs; that is, two lanes for northbound traffic in the morning peak period and two lanes for southbound traffic in the evening peak period.
In theory, the notion of a reversible lane to help manage peak traffic flows is a great concept, but, unfortunately for the commuters of Flagstaff Road, the reality is very different. A reversible lane system is only good if the direction of traffic flow is clear and followed, of course, by all road users. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Drivers travelling up and down the road often use the centre lane when they should not. During peak hour, it is troublesome, as the volume of traffic makes it clear. But outside these periods, drivers tend to become a little confused and conditions on the road can become quite dangerous.
Approximately 25,000 vehicles travel along Flagstaff Road each day: commuters travelling to and from their homes in and around the suburbs of Flagstaff Hill, Coromandel Valley, Coromandel East, Craigburn Farm, Aberfoyle Park, Chandlers Hill and Happy Valley. Residents in these areas have reported some horrendous experiences of witnessing people travelling in the wrong direction and near misses. I personally have had the frightening experience of driving along the centre lane of Flagstaff Road and finding myself face to face with another car that has either misread the signage or missed it altogether.
The confusing and dangerous nature of Flagstaff Road is not a new issue for the government. It has been raised on many occasions in this very chamber by both my predecessor, the Hon. Iain Evans, and the late member for Fisher, the Hon. Bob Such. They, too, received many complaints from their constituents about the dangers of Flagstaff Road. The late member for Fisher even tabled a petition in 2012 signed by more than 600 residents of South Australia requesting that the house urge the government to retain access to SA Water land on the eastern side of Flagstaff Road for the construction of a permanent two-way dual carriageway.
Construction of a fourth lane to provide a dual carriageway for both directions is critical to ensuring safety of commuters. Flagstaff Road was nominated in the RAA Risky Roads campaign, and subsequently a study was released in May 2013, which reported that there were 64 crashes along Flagstaff Road between 2008 and 2012, including 21 casualty crashes and eight seriously-injured/fatal crashes. This, of course, does not account for all the near misses. The government did make some upgrades to lane signals in 2013 to try to better direct motorists into the correct lanes but, in my view and in the view of many of my residents, this simply is not enough. Commuter confusion, near misses and dangerous conditions continue.
Currently, during periods when southbound traffic has only one lane, there are limited opportunities to overtake safely. This can be particularly frustrating and potentially dangerous when one is caught behind a bus or other large slow-moving vehicle. An ambulance or other emergency vehicle trying to get up the hill will have to wait for the bus to exit further up before they can pass, and a motorist caught behind a bus or truck is essentially condemned to moving at a snail's pace. As overtaking is incredibly dangerous, once you commit to overtake, there is a very real possibility of a head-on collision.
Of course, on Flagstaff Road, there is an absolute lack of bike lanes as well. In an era when we are encouraging cyclists, the ability to cycle is limited on Flagstaff Road at the moment. These poor road conditions are affecting a large number of people. Even the new designs for the Darlington upgrade have recognised the significant traffic volumes from Flagstaff Road. Community consultations reveal that just as many commuters use Flagstaff Road and Main South Road as the Southern Expressway. As a result, the amended plans for the Southern Expressway at Darlington will now allow people travelling from Flagstaff Road to access the non-stop motorway.
A fourth lane along Flagstaff Road is paramount. The creation of a permanent dual carriageway would remove confusion, provide room to overtake slow-moving traffic and allow emergency vehicles to proceed unencumbered. It is something members on this side of the house have long recognised and it is a road we are committed to improving.
The Weatherill Labor government's continual neglect of Flagstaff Road is disappointing not just to me but to the residents of Davenport and Fisher who regularly use this road. But neglecting transportation needs and residents' concerns in Davenport is no exception from this government: it has, sadly, become the norm. It is a government that continues to ignore the blatant need to address road capacity issues and has failed to deliver improved roads and bushfire fire safety for the Mitcham Hills area.
Traffic down Old Belair Road, Unley Road and Fullarton Road out of the Mitcham Hills continues to increase, driven by a growing population, especially with the rise in housing developments first at Blackwood Park and recently at Craigburn Farm. The Weatherill government has allowed an increase in urban sprawl without investing in essential local infrastructure. There is a critical need to upgrade roads, especially the central road corridor through the Mitcham Hills.
As my predecessor told this house many times—and I will continue to tell the house as long as it is necessary—the road capacity in the Mitcham Hills will not stand an evacuation when there is a fire. Of course, this applies to Flagstaff Road as well. Every summer, we are concerned about the capacity to evacuate in the event of a bad fire. In 2009, the Natural Resources Committee, chaired by the current Deputy Premier, released its Interim Bushfire Inquiry report. Recommendation 1 stated:
The committee recommends the provision of substantial funds to improve road infrastructure in the Mitcham Hills to be spent over the 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 budgets.
I ask: how much has been allocated to meeting the recommendations of the NRC? Very little indeed, unfortunately. The government has made no effort to respond to the recommendation of this report and it has made no effort to invest in the safety of Davenport residents. In his evidence to the committee, the then Sturt CFS group officer Mike Pearce stated that, if there was to be a major bushfire in the Mitcham Hills area on any weekend:
…we could have more than 8,500 vehicles fleeing from an approaching front. Of the six exits from the district, you could reasonably expect less than half to be suitable for this purpose due to push my impacts. This situation will cause severe traffic congestion throughout the district and leave road users in some areas at extreme risk.
The final report, released in 2011 when the member for Ashford was Chair, contained the very same recommendation. Put simply, the Mitcham Hills road corridor will not carry the necessary traffic in the event of a fire.
Sustained population growth throughout the Mitcham Hills and surrounding districts in the last seven years since this recommendation was first made has only increased the need to invest and upgrade local roads and, especially the Main Road corridor. The Weatherill Labor government continues to ignore the principal recommendation leaving Davenport residents exposed to the risk of being trapped in a bushfire, and it is a risk that increases with each new dwelling in this area. For any member of the government who doubts the seriousness of the situation, I invite them to join me on a tour of the Mitcham Hills and have a close look at the extent of the problem.
The government has neglected the residents of Davenport for far too long. It has ignored community concerns about the dangers of the reversible lane system on Flagstaff Road. It has ignored commuters' pleas to put an end to this system and develop a fourth lane and it has ignored the risk of severe traffic congestion in the event of a bushfire. The government is making no effort to improve road infrastructure in my electorate. The government simply does not govern for all South Australians.