The controversial decision to remove a wombat crossing at Tooronga Terrace, Beverly Hills will be left to the future Georges River Council later this year.
Residents fear that removal of the wombat crossing will worsen traffic conditions on Tooronga Terrace which they describe as a “high speed rat run”.
Its removal has been recommended by Georges River Council’s traffic staff and the RMS.
But more than 600 people signed a petition calling on the council to reverse its decision.
The raised crossing in the four lane Tooronga Terrace east of King Georges Road, has been there for decades, perhaps since the 1960s.
Following representation from Kogarah MP Chris Minns, Georges River administrator John Rayner decided that the crossing would not be removed until November, 2017 giving the community the opportunity to express their concerns to the newly-elected council which will then make a final decision.
“We have a recommendation from the traffic committee which involved police and RMS,” Mr Rayner said.
“I’m aware of the incidents and a well aware of the community feelings on this and the petition lodged.
“The elected council will be in a position to determine its future,” he said.
Beverly Hills North Progress Association member Kathryn Calman addressed the July 3 council meeting calling on the council to keep the crossing and remove a lane on Tooronga Terrace which would reduce the appeal to rat-runners.
“The removal of the speed hump at nearby Cooloongatta Road by Westconnex caused this street to become a speedway,” she said.
“It took a near-miss high speed head-on collision to force the hand of West Connex to engage with council to reinstate the speed hump.
“This is evidence of what could happen if they removed the crossing at Tooronga Terrace. This is a non-arterial road. It has become a rat run with people avoiding the M5.”
She said a smarter urban streetscape design with traffic calming measures would be a better option rather than removal of the crossing.
This could include the original council concept of removing one west-bound lane heading to King Georges Road.
“This crossing not only gives pedestrians the right of way, it is an effective traffic calming measure,” Ms Kalman said.
“Its removal will force commuters to wait long periods at the signalised traffic lights at King Georges Road and, based on recently experience with the removal of a speed hump on Cooloongatta Road, will encourage even more traffic at higher speeds.
“I’ve always lived in Beverly Hills and that’s why I know the crossing was there in 1960s. The Tooronga Terrace shopping centre is becoming busier and more vibrant and we need a better town planning solution for the shopping strip and the pedestrians.”
Beverly Hills resident Beverly Evers said the Tooroonga Terrace crossing was there when she moved into the area in 1973 and people told her it had been there for many years before.
City of Hurstville Residents’ Association president Brian Shaw said there would be between 1000 and 1500 pedestrian using the crossing each day.
“I have met no-one in Beverly Hills North who supports the closure proposal,” he said.
“It would seem most people believe the lighted pedestrian crossing at King Georges Road is dangerous and inconvenient.”
The council approved the removal of the crossing in December, 2016 but the decision was reversed after residents’ protests.
The residents had advised they had witnessed many near misses at the crossing as vehicles were focusing on the traffic lights at the intersection of King Georges Road and Tooronga Terra, failing to give way to pedestrians on the crossing further down Tooronga Terrace due to their distraction of trying to make the lights.
The RMS accident data showed that for the five year period between January 2011 and December, 2015, two accidents involving pedestrians were recorded at the crossing where it was reported that the pedestrians were injured.
There were two options, to remove the crossing or block the inside lane on both approaches to the crossing and reduce the traffic capacity of Tooronga Terrace.
The traffic committee opted for removal, saying there is a signalled crossing 50m to the west of the raised pedestrian crossing.
And option two was not favoured by the traffic committee as it would reduce Tooronga Terrace’s traffic capacity and it would increase the queuing of vehicles in Tooronga Terrace.
When the council installed the removal notification at the crossing, many residents objected to the decision with the council received a petition in excess of 600 signatures asking the crossing remain.
Residents said it had been there for more than three decades and is used frequently by the community.
Residents were also concerned that if the crossing is removed, pedestrians would still cross at the same location out of habit and so endanger themselves.
They also said that crossing at the signalised crossing lights is more dangerous than crossing midway along Tooronga Terrace as there was not enough “green time” for pedestrians to cross.
Residents suggested other options be investigated to upgrade the safety of the existing raised pedestrian crossing without the need to remove it including installation of speed cushions before each approach, installation of flashing lights and better lighting, and relocation of the crossing further east from its current locations.
These measures were discounted by the traffic staff and the RMS and its removal was supported.