FOBIF has made a submission to Vicroads on the Safe Roads project, which aims to reduce ‘run-off roads’ accidents, mainly by installing barriers and removing vegetation likely to be on the end of a crashing vehicle.
Our submission aims to preserve the safety benefits of the project while minimising damage to vegetation. The substance of our submission follows:
‘For historical reasons, highway corridors in this region are valuable reserves of large trees, of a size not common in state forests and other reserves. Further, even trees rated as ‘medium’ by statewide standards, are relatively large in this area, and worth considering as highly valuable.
‘We appreciate your engineers’ efforts to minimise vegetation removal for this project, but we believe that the emphasis of the project is too heavily on coping with run off road accidents, and not enough on avoiding them.
‘We agree that saving lives should be the main focus of this, as of any highway project. But in our opinion driver behaviour, and ways of modifying it, should be the main object of attention here: this is a winding stretch of road, and every effort should be made to persuade drivers to drive accordingly.
‘Further, conversations with engineers on the project have persuaded us that some extremely effective methods of preventing run off road accidents have been ruled out because of cost: we hope that this is not the case, and would like to be assured of this.
‘We do not intend to discuss the removal proposals individually, but believe strongly that the number of trees to be removed could be very significantly reduced if the project included the following:
- ‘Road edge rumble strips: we believe that these were considered, and are not sure why they were removed from the project. We understand that these strips have been shown to reduce run off road incidents by as much as 46% on rural two lane roads.
- ‘Signs [of the ‘black spot’] variety, warning of dangerous driving conditions: according to the Canadian Journal of Transportation, drivers adjust to lower speeds when advised that the accident rate in the area is high: that they ‘ are sensitive to environmental features that are associated with the accident rate per km driven, and they adjust their behaviour accordingly.’
- ‘Reduction of the speed limit to 80 kph. We understand that arbitrary reductions in speed limits can bring compliance problems, but in this case such a reduction is not arbitrary: this stretch of road is known as a deer and kangaroo crossing, and has features which, we believe, make a speed limit reduction credible to drivers. Not only is it a relatively narrow and winding stretch, but also there are numerous driveway entries onto it. We note that when we made a similar suggestion to Vicroads some years ago about the Highway between Golden Point Road and Elphinstone, the idea was rejected on ‘non compliance’ grounds: yet that limit has now been accepted—precisely because the road stretch requires it.
- ‘Reduction of the required space between barriers and trees: we note that steel barriers on the Tunnel Hill stretch of the highway near Elphinstone seem to be much closer than the margins suggested as necessary by engineers at the Newstead meeting.
‘We also have some questions:
- ‘Are centre of the road plugs part of the project?
- ‘We understand that Golden Wattles are slated for removal. Are these really considered a crash hazard? At what dbh is a tree considered a hazard?
- ‘There is an accepted method of valuing trees: has Vicroads established the monetary value of the large trees proposed for removal?
- ‘Assuming there are offsets to compensate for any removals, are these to be located in this region?
- ‘Is it possible to widen the shoulder over a longer stretch of the road without intruding on adjoining bushland—or would such a widening be a budgetary problem?’