What’s the problem?
Over the last 3-4 years there has been a growing problem with cars (and even private buses) using Hackett as a shortcut to get priority access to Majura Ave.
The fundamental problem is that east Gungahlin is being developed without sufficient consideration given to transport routes in and out of the suburbs. This results in significant congestion on existing routes such as Northbourne Ave. To avoid the congestion there, cars are turning left from the Federal highway and going down Antill Street with the aim of getting onto Majura Ave and then Limestone Ave.
Faced with delays at the Philip Ave/Majura Ave intersection, drivers believe (rightly or wrongly) that it would be quicker to cut through Hackett to get the priority turn into Majura. This, in turn, makes the situation worse, further slowing down other drivers (and so on).
The consequence for Hackett has been that suburban streets meant to take light traffic are faced with large volumes of traffic moving quickly in the mornings. The Hackett Community Association undertook a traffic survey in March 2008 to try to get an idea of the size of the problem (table of results). The key findings were:
- Between 7.30am and 9.00am 1079 vehicles turned from Antill Street into Madigan Street
- Between 8.00am and 9.00am 13 vehicles a minute were entering Hackett via Madigan Street.
This affects the lives of the residents of Hackett in a number of ways:
- It is dangerous for children who are walking or cycling to school at that time of the morning
- It is dangerous for older people in Hackett trying to cross roads (particularly given that the traffic is moving quickly)
- It makes it difficult for the residents of Hackett to get in and out of the suburb during that time.
It should also be kept in mind that, with the further development of new suburbs in east Gungahlin, the situation is set to get much worse over the next few years.
What can be done?
Following the traffic survey, the Hackett Community Association has held a number of discussions (including sponsoring two community meetings) with ACT Roads about possible solutions.
Traffic lights: ACT Roads, and most residents, believe that the best solution would be to construct traffic lights at the Phillip Ave/Majura Ave intersection. The operation of the lights would be set (say at 75:25 ratio) to favour traffic turning right, which would allow for a better flow of traffic and remove the incentive to cut through Hackett.
The problem with this solution is that the construction of traffic lights would involve significant expenditure which is not factored into the forward budget for Roads. It may not be constructed for some time unless there is community pressure on the ACT Government to prioritise construction. At a North Canberra “Meet the Candidates” meeting in September 2008 (sponsored by the North Canberra Community Council) both the ALP and the Greens committed to fast-tracking traffic lights at the intersection. A draft letter urging the ACT Government to take action on this issue (is linked here).
Traffic redirection: In the short term, there are a number of options available to redirect traffic which can be done immediately and which would solve the problem. The difficulty, however, is that all the options have disadvantages and none (so far) has widespread support.
One option would be to change the Phillip Ave/Majura Ave intersection to give priority to traffic turning right from Phillip. This would eliminate the problem because through-traffic would be put at a disadvantage. A public meeting was held to discuss this option, and it was strongly rejected because of the inconvenience to traffic leaving Hackett from the other direction on Phillip (turning left into Majura).
A second proposal (Correspondence from ACT Roads to the HCA explaining options) was to undertake a 6 month trial involving signs at Antill/Madigan preventing either a left hand turn into Madigan (Option 1) or both left hand and right hand turns (Option 2) between 7.30am and 9.00am. This would also solve the problem but was rejected because of concern from Hackett shop-owners about the possible effect on business in the mornings (see comments below) and concern about inconvenience for Hackett residents who might want to re-enter Hackett on Madigan St during that period.
Traffic calming: Another possibility is that various traffic calming measures (eg. speed bumps) are put into place to slow traffic down and discourage rat-runners. This, however, has been rejected by some residents on nearby streets, who argue that it would increase traffic noise (slowing down/speeding up) right through the day and night.
Hackett Community Association is now pursuing two paths:
1. We are pressing the ACT Government and ACT Roads about the timetable for the construction of traffic lights
2. We are continuing to explore short-term options with ACT Roads which would be accepted to residents.
In the meantime, please write to the ACT Government letting them know about how serious the problem is getting, and post any comments or suggestions you may have on this website..