Efficiency before safety (and community, active transport, and commonsense)

This is really scary. According to yesterday’s Otago Daily Times, local road moguls have been so influenced by Stephen Joyce’s mantra about bigger roads creating more efficiency and economic growth, that they are considering pushing through the four lanes of the Caversham bypass before putting in the safety and connectivity engineering that is desperately needed at Lookout Point even before the flow of traffic is miraculously “improved” by the addition of the extra lanes.

New Zealand Transport Agency regional director Bruce Richards told the ODT this week there was a “quick fix” to the safety issues at Lookout Point: “Just take away the intersection.”

However, this would divide the city by doing away with the “connectivity” between adjacent suburbs.

Of the efficiency option, Mr Richards said, “We can do that pretty quick”.

“. . . we thought safety and connectivity would be more important but, if you look at it from an economic stimulus point of view, we’ve got money and we’ve got ability to do the four-laning sooner rather than later.”

And the head of the Otago Regional Transport Committee, regional councillor Stephen Woodhead acknowledged that their thinking was being directly influenced by Joyce’s priorities.

Asked why the committee had put the safety portion as stage one, Mr Woodhead said the committee’s thinking was based on the legislation and Labour government policy at the time.

However, new Transport Minister Steven Joyce was sending out “different signals”.

Last week, Mr Joyce referred to congestion, safety and economic growth as reasons why the Government was promoting upgrades of seven “roads of national significance”.

Dunedin has a history of making bad decisions for pedestrians. Their powers that be allowed the construction of a supermarket carpark (now just a carpark, such a bad commercial decision it was) in the middle of the busiest block on the oneway system north, which means that every time you try to cross that road without trudging the extra 200 plus metres to the lights at the end of the block, you run the gamut of a near continuous stream of traffic. They did something similar across the Highgate footpath at Roslyn Village with the new Big Fresh supermarket up there. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Dunedin has the highest rate of pedestrian accidents in the country, and we can’t just blame the students.

That a senior traffic engineer would suggest, even in jest (presuming he was joking, which I rather doubt), destroying the connectivity of a neighbourhood by removing an intersection strikes chills into my heart.

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