Highway safety: the talk goes on

Vicroads engineers met again with residents in Newstead last week to go over objections to tree removals along the Pyrenees Highway [see our previous posts]. Numerous objections to the basis of the project were raised. Some were accepted as legitimate—statistics regarding traffic flow and accident occurrence, for example, were found to be flawed. Nevertheless, none of these objections were enough to change the nature of the project. Engineers present made it plain that in their view it will go on as planned, sooner or later, further consultations notwithstanding.

The crux of the matter, it seems to us, is that Vicroads is focused on one side of the accident equation. As we reported last week, road authorities attribute the rate of serious injury to two factors: likelihood of a crash, and impact if the crash occurs. Residents’ proposals have centred on the first: avoiding crashes altogether, by reducing speed limits and installing new signage with various road surface improvements. Vicroads works from the assumption that crashes will happen anyway, and we should work to soften their effects. Of course if a car veers off the road a wire rope barrier will soften the impact of the accident. But what if, owing to its lower speed, the car was not to leave the road at all? The two sides of the argument bounce off each other with no result other than the inevitable: the project will proceed…

One revealing moment in last week’s discussion: engineers claimed that for every request they have for a speed limit reduction, there are ten objections to it. We’re pretty cautious about this claim, which sounds a little self serving. We remember that we were offered the same reasoning ten years ago when we asked for a reduction on the Castlemaine Elphinstone road…and a few years after that, the limit was reduced, with little or no community objection…

Residents have sought the assistance of the Minister and the Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards, who has been co operative, so far. Consultations are ongoing.

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