Safety fix “making moves” at notorious Power St intersection

Safety fix “making moves” at notorious Power St intersection

By Brendan Rees

Long-term designs for a much-anticipated safety fix at a dangerous Southbank intersection which was the scene of a horrific truck crash could be finalised as early as October.  

It comes as the state government committed to a $2.5 million redesign of the Power St and City Rd intersection with “suitable design options” having been explored since May after a truck that hit and injured five pedestrians sparked calls for a safety solution.   

Safety measures including temporary bollards and planter boxes were installed, but within 24 hours they were bowled over by another truck. And in a third incident, a truck clipped a car in June, dragging it around the corner as it turned left onto Power St.  

A government spokesperson said this month that long-term options were “well underway” and it was “continuing to get on with improving safety” at the intersection.

“Expert teams of engineers and road safety specialists have been working on this site since May and have been carrying out traffic modelling, consideration of heritage-listed property, safety audits and the identification of complex underground utilities,” the spokesperson said.

“They’re now at the stage where potential long-term options are being carefully designed, in detail.”

“As these investigations progress, we’ll continue to work with the City of Melbourne to improve pedestrian safety in this area.”

But according to Southbank resident and new Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) committee member Jannine Pattison, who organised a petition following the truck crash, she said she had recently been told by the City of Melbourne that a “plan for the scope of works” at the intersection “should be completed by the end of this month”.

In terms of designs being proposed, Ms Pattison said it was her understanding that the plans may include relocating a traffic light at the intersection, reducing Power St to two lanes, and increasing the width of the footpath.   

SRA president Tony Penna said after having recently spoken to the Department of Transport he was also “under impression they were making moves” on a long-term design for the intersection.  

“I got the feeling they were trying to do something as soon as possible,” he told Southbank News.

“I have seen paint all over the footpath and the road down there which is indicating where all the infrastructure is under the ground, so I was under the impression they were making moves on it but where it’s at is a good question.”

“We want them to move on it as quickly as possible for obvious reasons.”

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said it had been “assured that the Department of Transport is urgently working on a permanent solution” and “looks forward to seeing redesign works for the site as soon as possible”.

“We’re continuing to work closely with the Victorian Government to help make this a safer intersection for locals, workers and visitors,” the spokesperson said.

However, Monash University Accident Research Centre Senior Research Fellow Dr David Logan said, “it’s not out of the question” for investigations into a long-term safety fix of a major intersection to take between 12 to 18 months but added “that’s purely indicative”. 

“There are a lot of factors that need to be considered in addition to safety at a large and complex intersection like this, particularly one in a congested city area,” he said.

“It is a complex issue and of course safety isn’t the only concern – you’ve got to think about traffic flow, intersection capacity, land use changes, environmental impact and even the effect the redesign will have on the surrounding streets and intersections.”

Dr Logan said while the short-term improvements would “make a contribution” to safety, they “won’t make the intersection inherently safe”.

“As an example, you might get a five per cent reduction – whether in serious injuries or crash numbers – but you won’t get the 20, 30 or 40 per cent that might be possible with a safe system-compatible design.”

“What they’re doing with these short-term safety fixes is probably just stopping it from getting worse more quickly.”

The state government initially invested $400,000 which allowed short-term safety measures at the intersection and “investigations into safety at the intersection and similar ones across the CBD to be carried out”.

Engineers have been factoring in issues such as available road and pedestrian space and underground utility infrastructure at the Power St/City Rd intersection, the state government said.

The intersection is popular with big trucks accessing the West Gate Freeway as heavy vehicles 4.65 metres or higher or those carrying placarded loads, such as fuel tankers, are banned from using Citylink tunnels.  

Meanwhile, safety concerns have also been raised at the intersection of Kavanagh and Power streets after a crash occurred early this month involving a car and a cyclist. 

According to the SRA, collisions occurred at the intersection “fortnightly if not weekly” including a number of near-misses.

The association said it was currently working on a “data driven” and “solution-based approach to this problem” which was of “great concern to our local community” as calls grow for the speed limit to be reduced. 

Data from the Department of Transport revealed in the five years to 30 December 2020, eight crashes had been recorded at the Kavanagh and Power street intersection – two of which resulted in serious injuries, though none of the crashes involved pedestrians and cyclists.

The Department said there were no plans to make “any changes at this intersection at this time”.

“Keeping all road users safe is our number one priority, and we continuously explore ways to make our roads safer, working alongside road safety partners like councils and Victoria Police,” a Department of Transport spokesperson said.

“The Department of Transport will continue to monitor traffic and safety at this intersection – as it does across Victoria’s arterial network.” •

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