Residents’ relief as dangerous intersection set to be fixed
By Brendan Rees
Southbank residents have expressed relief after a permanent fix to improve safety at the dangerous City Rd-Power St intersection was announced last month.
The accident black spot, which was the scene of a horrific truck crash in May that injured five pedestrians, will be overhauled under a $3.8 million safety upgrade after the state government unveiled final designs last month.
Under the plans, the traffic island on Power St will be removed, a pedestrian crossing moved away from the corner, and all lanes shifted north on City Rd.
A stop line for westbound traffic will also be pushed back, creating more space for turning vehicles and to allow for the widening of the footpath to make it safer for pedestrians waiting to cross.
The work comes after engineers and road safety specialists undertook an “extensive investigation and design process” since May, after a B-double truck hit and injured five pedestrians who were taken to hospital.
The incident sparked a ferocious backlash from the community which said more protection from trucks was needed, with some calling for a ban on trucks altogether in the area.
Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna earlier this year said there had been “an accident waiting to happen” at the intersection, and had also visited the site in-person with Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece to raise his concerns of safety just two weeks before the near-deadly crash.
The night before the truck crash, the SRA had also approved a motion to install a GoPro camera on a building at the intersection to capture footage to “show how dangerous it really is”.
“We were too late with the GoPro, but there has now been so much footage obtained by television crews now that there is no doubt of the dangers this intersection poses,” Mr Penna wrote in his column in the June edition of Southbank News.
Mr Penna said while the SRA welcomed the upgrade announcement, it’s not the “outcome we would’ve desired but it’s a compromise”.
“It’s significant improvement but I still don’t think it will stop the trucks from crossing over the footpath,” he said, however, the moving of the pedestrian crossing “would go a long way to improve safety”.
He added SRA would continue to lobby the state government for improvements at the intersection, and for trucks to be banned from using it.
Resident Jannine Pattison, who started a petition calling for improved road safety at the intersection following the May crash, said it was a “big relief” that the government had found a solution at the intersection.
But Ms Pattison, whose petition garnered more than 1500 signatures, said the design was “only part of the puzzle”.
“There is still much that needs to be addressed to make that corner and stretch of road safe,” she told Southbank News.
“As a resident, I can only hope that the redesign reduces the traffic congestion and increases the safety for pedestrians.”
Another resident, Jan Martz, who witnessed the shocking truck crash in May, said she welcomed the plans, saying it “should really minimise the contact” between trucks and pedestrians.
“I’m so glad they are addressing it, given the constraints that’s probably a good plan – I love the big wide truck turning lane, I think that will give those truck drivers some room to manoeuvre,” she said, adding trucks had still “swiped” the concrete bollards in recent months.
Works at the intersection will kick off in October 2022, with the upgrade expected to be completed by early 2023.
Preliminary works will start before the end of this year including the relocation of essential underground utilities that service the traffic signals and provide electricity and other essentials to residents and businesses in the area.
An automated pedestrian crossing and sensors to trigger changes to traffic lights will remain in place to provide additional time for pedestrians to cross under the new designs.
It was part of a number of short-term safety measures introduced in May including plastic bollards and planter boxes, as well as signs and markings warning of turning trucks – at a cost of $400,000 to the state government.
However, in June, one of the safety bollards was bowled over by a truck within 24 hours of it being installed, along with a street sign. And, in a third terrifying incident, a truck clipped a car in July before dragging it onto the side of the footpath as it turned left from City Rd.
Road Safety Minister Ben Carroll said the government was “forging ahead” with the major safety upgrade having worked with the City of Melbourne to draw up a final design.
“This will transform the intersection, making it significantly better for all road users and a safer crossing for pedestrians while delivering more turning space for vehicles,” he said.
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council was excited that work would soon begin to permanently fix the City Rd intersection “to make it safer for all road users”.
Victorian Transport Association chief Peter Anderson said it had been working closely with the Department of Transport throughout the design phase and “this is a great possible outcome for pedestrians and road users”.
“This road and intersection are a key link for heavy vehicles, particularly those prohibited from using the CityLink tunnels, and these improvements will make it so much easier for truck drivers to navigate the route,” he said.
Monash University Accident Research Centre Senior Research Fellow Dr David Logan said “appears that the changes primarily address the problem” of interactions between heavy vehicles turning left into Power St and pedestrians.
However, he said it was unfortunate the intersection remained a tunnel bypass for dangerous goods vehicles and during tunnel closures.
“Without these constraints, removing heavy vehicles to an alternative route would have allowed more innovative solutions to be considered for pedestrians and cyclists,” he said.
Head of Transport Services Department of Transport Nick Foa said the design offered permanent improvements to safety for pedestrians and road users.
Engineers and road safety specialists took into consideration traffic modelling, available road and pedestrian space, heritage-listed property, safety audits and underground utilities to develop the permanent safety measures.
The intersection is a popular site for trucks to access the nearby West Gate Freeway as heavy vehicles more than 4.65m long or which carry hazardous materials are banned from using CityLink tunnels.
According to data from the Department of Transport, there have been seven collisions at the intersection in the five years to June 2020, one of which involved a B-double •