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Whiteman St to undergo major facelift

13 Sep 2015

Whiteman St to undergo major facelift Image

The Normanby Rd Reserve in Southbank is set to be widened to help make way for a third tram track, at the expense of 25 car parking spaces in Whiteman St.

City of Melbourne councillors voted unanimously in favour of the Yarra Trams proposal at the September 1 Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting, which will see a central island platform constructed at the reserve for routes 96 and 109 and a separate adjacent platform on a third track for the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

Existing tram stop safety zones in Clarendon St, located on either side of Normanby Rd, will be removed to allow space for the third tram line, while lane sizes on Clarendon St will be reduced.

The matter was first considered at the FMC meeting on July 7 this year, however Cr Rohan Leppert proposed to defer the matter in order to canvass alternative design options amid concerns of removal of native vegetation.

While the amended plans will still see the removal of 19 river red gum trees, the removal of 25 car parking spaces will allow for a wider reserve to compensate for additional tree planting.

However, the widening of the reserve will also result in the loss of the existing shared footpath on Whiteman St, with some councillors raising concerns as to how a redesigned route would impact on cyclist safety.  

The City of Melbourne’s engineering services manager Geoff Robinson explained that cyclists and pedestrians travelling along Whiteman St would now be redirected to cross the tram reserve at the west end of the new tram platform to connect to the existing shared path located on the south side of Normanby Rd.

“We don’t do anything which compromises the safety of any user and most of the things that we get to do are generally a compromise,” he said.

“The cyclist numbers that we got are around 148 bikes in AM peak and a little bit less that that in the PM. We have about 44 bikes that are affected really and they’re quite low numbers that come out of Whiteman St.”

“The traffic volumes aren’t there, the speeds aren’t there and there are probably only about 40 bikes here.”

Mr Robinson said that planning officers would monitor the situation with new cycling routes before implementing any new safety signage.

“I’d probably suggest that what we’d do is leave it at the moment until after the initial change and see where the fly line went,” he told councillors.

“If we put a treatment here, which directed cyclists to the north of the tram platform it may not suit and then it just becomes more confusing.”

Cr Rohan Leppert said that, while he held some concerns about the reconfigured cycling route, the amended proposal was a far more balanced and preferable design outcome than what has been initially considered.

“What we’ve got here is a better outcome than we otherwise would have and that’s because this process has been made public,” he said. “It was a long process but I’m glad we did it.”

“I do have concerns about the cyclists East to West routes, which has been canvassed during the question time but I think for the reasons stated by Mr Robinson as a balance this is a far more preferable design outcome.”

In praising Cr Leppert for calling in the initial proposal, Cr Stephen Mayne said the removal of 25 car spaces on Whiteman St would allow for a far greater use of valuable public space.

“I’m particularly pleased to see that we’ve decided to remove 25 on-street car parking spaces,” he said.

“This is an example where we’re giving priority to the bikes, the trees and the Tramcar Restaurant so there’s extra capacity for the Tramcar Restaurant, which is an iconic international tourism business.”

“So what if we’ve lost 25 on street parking spaces. We’ve got too many at the moment. There’s plenty of space underneath Jeff’s Shed and Crown, you don’t need to defend car parking in this instance.”

Yarra Trams is yet to announce when construction of the project will start.

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