20 May 2023

Traffic lights for Gobba Bridge despite community backlash

| Chris Roe
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Gobbagombalin Bridge

A commitment on the duplication of the Gobba Bridge was high on the agenda for C4W. Photo: Chris Roe.

Despite concerns raised by Wagga City Council, MP Dr Joe McGirr, ratepayers’ groups, the Committee4Wagga (C4W) and individual community members, Transport for NSW is set to proceed with its plan to install traffic lights at either end of the Gobbagombalin Bridge on the Olympic Highway.

A report released this week outlined Transport for NSW’s response to the feedback that it had received and confirmed details for the intersection upgrades due to begin next year.

“From what we can understand from our consultation, traffic lights are unlikely to provide the solution to the bridge’s problems,” said Scott Sanbrook from C4W which undertook a community survey on the bridge this year.

“There is a real chance it will just shift the congestion from one spot to another by creating choke points on the roads leading up to the bridge. That’s a potential nightmare for motorists.”

READ ALSO Survey says Wagga wants a new bridge ASAP

Wagga’s independent MP agreed and said that he had taken up the issue with the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison.

“The proposed upgrades on the Olympic Highway do not enjoy community support,” Dr McGirr said.

“A recent online survey by Commitee4Wagga indicated that some 58 per cent of 1684 respondents did not agree with the proposed ‘upgrades’ or supported ‘other’. I do not believe that Transport for New South Wales have taken into account community expectations.”

Gobba Bridge

C4W chairman Adam Drummond and MP Dr Joe McGirr at the southern entrance to the Gobba Bridge. Photo: Chris Roe.

Transport for NSW confirmed that they had received 79 submissions, including one from council, two from Dr McGirr, six from local businesses, service providers and associations, and 70 submissions from individual community members.

Only 11 per cent were supportive of the plan for lights at each end of the bridge, 57 per cent opposed the proposal and 28 per cent offered suggestions for improvement.

The primary concerns included the need for a second bridge, a preference for roundabouts and over/or underpasses.

READ ALSO Dr Joe calls on new Labor Government to take a closer look at HumeLink

According to the C4W survey, 96 per cent of respondents felt that the existing two-lane bridge was not adequate.

“Committee4Wagga’s focus has been on supporting a duplication of the Gobbagombalin Bridge, which is what the community is crying out for,” Mr Sanbrook said.

But Transport for NSW confirmed that duplication “out of the existing bridge is out of scope for the proposal” which instead focuses on “short to medium-term solutions to improve traffic efficiency and road safety,” conceding that the proposal “has been designed to allow for the future duplication of Gobbagombalin Bridge”.

Old Narrandera Road

Old Narrandera Road upgrade: Transport for NSW.

A string of short videos on the government site offered explanations on the decision-making and senior project manager Sam Millie explained why traffic lights were preferred for the northern side of the bridge.

“When we called for feedback last year 20 per cent of suggestions said that a roundabout would improve safety at the Old Narrandera Road intersection,” he said.

“We investigated four roundabout options thoroughly but found traffic lights were preferred because they allowed safe turning out of Old Narrandera Road and could be coordinated at different times of the day to ensure good traffic flow.

“Traffic lights are also considered safer, and more future-proof as extra lanes can be added as needed in years to come as Wagga continues to grow.”

Travers St intersection

Travers Street intersection upgrade. Photo: Transport for NSW.

At the other end, the Travers Street roundabout is set to be removed and the intersection shifted south to run closer to the Murrumbidgee Turf Club.

“We support any initiative which will alleviate the bridge’s shortfalls but we have our doubts that traffic lights are the answer, particularly when looking at the proposed detailed design showing the single lanes for through traffic and right-only lane to Travers Street,” Mr Sanbrook said.

Dr McGirr said Minister Aitchison had agreed to visit Wagga to hear directly from stakeholders about the need for a second bridge to the city’s north.

He’s reiterated calls for a full feasibility study and in the meantime, wants immediate action on another choke point at the Marshall’s Creek Bridge on the Sturt Highway.

“The planning work on Marshall’s Creek Bridge has already been completed and work can start immediately,” he said.

“Why not begin the widening for Marshall’s Creek while we do the planning for Gobba? I think the community would agree with me that this is a no-brainer!”

You can read the Transport for NSW review here.

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