Widen Punt Road!?!?

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By Daniel Wilson

Punt Road has a nickname that denotes the frustration commuters experience when using the arterial. This nickname can’t be published here.

An almost constant trickle of social media posts describes the difficulty commuters experience: “Yes fellow drivers u are in hell. #puntroad” Whether you are on a bicycle, a bus, a truck, a motorcycle, or a car, there always seems to be something to lament.

Vic Roads thinks it may have a solution. Its findings are backed by Public Transport Victoria, which has a stake in Punt Road/Hoddle Street as it also is an arterial for busses.

VicRoads considered seven options of how to deal with congestion on Punt Road. The first concept extends clearways to 24hours, 7 days a week. The problem with this is that it would not realise any benefits during peak times as it is already a clearway during these times.

Concepts two and three looked at intersection changes, including extending turning lanes and creating a better connection with Batman Avenue. The drawback with this plan is that it would only address congestion in the short to medium term, and would require “a series of changes to turning conditions, including right turn bans”.

Concept four looked at adding a reversible central lane in the middle like the one on Queens Road. The problem with this that “all right turns would need to be banned”, and since this option would involve land acquisition and rebuilding the road, VicRoads argued that “the cost of providing a reversible lane would not make much economic sense”.

Concept five looked at widening Punt Road to six lanes, but only at intersections. It would include priority bypass lanes which “improves bus reliability and allows more signal priority to be given to trams east-west”. This option would require the acquisition and demolition of approximately 65 properties, and the widening of the Punt Road Bridge across the Yarra.

Concepts six and seven would see Punt Road turned into a six lane highway, where concept seven would see a bus lane in each direction. Both of these options would also allow for amenities such as a median strip with trees and wider footpaths, but would require the acquisition and demolition of 130 properties, and the widening of the Punt Road Bridge across the Yarra.

The government has had a public acquisition option on 140 properties on the east side of Punt Road since the 1950s, which means property owners have known since then that this is coming.

Vic Roads has argued that if nothing is done about this, congestion will only get worse. “The identified patterns of growth involving significant population increases in the outer north and across established suburbs in the north, south and east, will have a major bearing on the demand for travel along and across the Hoddle Street-Punt Road corridor.”

According to VicRoads, “The Hoddle Street-Punt Road corridor is the only major north-south arterial that can provide a vital strategic bypass of central Melbourne and encourage through traffic away from local roads and key activity centres such as Victoria St, Richmond and Chapel St, South Yarra.”

The report went on to say “As a result of the congestion along the corridor, road users currently experience significant delays throughout the day – not just at peak times – both along and across the corridor. This results in lower productivity and reduced amenity for the community. The risk of casualty crashes along the corridor is also about 50 per cent higher than for comparable arterial road corridors.”

While there is some local opposition to the widening of Punt Road, Vic Roads believes that these concepts provide a solution to the congestion which is putting an extra strain on the wider road network. “The congestion of Punt Road leads road users to seek alternative routes, putting pressure on parallel road corridors such as St Kilda Road and Chapel Street, which have a number of other competing place and movement objectives.”

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