Two weeks into Canberra’s light rail traffic disruption

London Circuit between Edinburgh and Constitution Avenues closed two weeks ago tomorrow, on Friday 2 December, beginning years of traffic congestion – “the disruption” – as the ACT Government extends light rail from Civic to Commonwealth Park, part of the ACT’s biggest-ever infrastructure project: light rail to Woden.

The government thanked Canberrans for their co-operation, but the Canberra Liberals say this is spin, and prophesied “traffic disruption of biblical proportions” to come.

The Roads ACT Traffic Management Centre in Fyshwick has monitored traffic around the city during construction, and made interventions as required, transport minister Chris Steel said.

“As expected, the traffic network has experienced some increased congestion” – including disruption on certain road corridors since the closure of the southern section of London Circuit and the two cloverleaf ramps on Commonwealth Avenue – “but also underuse in other parts of the traffic network.”

Traffic increased on Constitution Avenue, Vernon Circle, and Commonwealth Avenue. Constitution Avenue was significantly congested during morning and afternoon peak times.

“Travel times along Constitution Avenue have increased during peak periods since the closures; commuters sometimes experience delays in trying to exit car parks onto Constitution Avenue,” Mr Steel said.

“Long traffic queues have also been observed along sections of Parkes Way and Commonwealth Avenue. However, with traffic typically lower at this time of year and manual intervention by the Traffic Management Centre adjusting the phasing of traffic lights at key intersections, we are seeing traffic continue to move efficiently.”

Traffic conditions improved for vehicles travelling eastbound on Parkes Way during the morning peak up to Coranderrk Street. However, Parkes Way westbound near Edinburgh Avenue, and Parkes Way eastbound (at the Anzac Parade roundabout) in the morning saw some congestion.

Mr Steel said that new signals at the Coranderrk Street roundabout on Parkes Way worked better than intended, providing better traffic flow eastbound on Parkes Way in the morning peak.

“The new signals have really proven their worth on the traffic network. At the moment, conditions for eastbound traffic on Parkes Way up to Coranderrk Street in the mornings are better during the peak than before the disruption began.

“This intervention is important as with the next phase of disruption next year, we expect to see more traffic volume on Parkes Way.”

Edinburgh Avenue is underused as an access point to the city, and Mr Steel encouraged Canberrans to take this route.

“The majority of citybound motorists are choosing to travel via Commonwealth Avenue and Constitution Avenue, with low use of Edinburgh Avenue,” the minister said. “Motorists are encouraged to rethink their travel routes and consider accessing the City via Edinburgh Avenue.”

Traffic volumes are lower on Mondays and Fridays.

“If you work one or two days from the office and have to use your car, consider travelling on one or both of those days when traffic volumes are not so high on approaches to the City,” Mr Steel said.

Mr Steel thanked Canberrans for “rethinking their routine” and for their patience during the first two weeks of disruption, “as they have adjusted to changed traffic conditions in the city”.

“Major infrastructure projects now under construction are disruptive, but they will ensure that our city is better connected, sustainable, and vibrant in the long term,” Mr Steel said.

While the first stage of disruption had begun, the Government was preparing for expected lane closures on Commonwealth Avenue next year, he said.

“As we move into the next construction phase in the first half of 2023, we expect there to be further disruption. This will not only affect private motorists, but will also increase bus journey times, which have been accommodated in a new timetable for term 1 2023.

“The new timetable responds to the disruption, and focuses on reliability and delivering frequency during peak periods. The extra journey time has to be factored into the timetable, and will result in a temporary reduction in the number of bus services which can be operated, particularly in off-peak times. Once we have monitored the actual impact on bus run times, during the next phase of construction, we will consider an uplift in services in the second half of 2023.”

The changes to the bus timetable have been criticised by the ACT Greens, the Canberra Liberals, and public transport user groups.

Mark Parton MLA, shadow minister for transport, said today: “Andrew Barr’s spin machine is in full drive once again.

“The Labor-Greens government is cutting bus services because it doesn’t have enough buses or drivers. Chris Steel has failed to deliver 12 new electric buses that they have long promised in this calendar year.  The orange and blue Renault buses need to be retired at the end of December and despite knowing about this for years, the replacements are not here.

“The disruption caused by the raising of London Circuit is also playing a role, and if anything, the timetable changes are indicative of traffic disruption in our city of biblical proportions in the new year.

“It’s ludicrous for the minister to suggest that people should simply ‘change their routines’ for the next decade. Most people simply don’t have that flexibility, and they will be forced to spend many hours sitting in traffic jams, missing appointments, failing to get to work on time, and providing school late notes every day.

“This comes after they tried to silently drop the reduced services timetable with the minister missing in action at that time.

“Once again, Labor and the Greens have failed to be honest with Canberrans.

“The only thing Labor and the Greens are doing is emitting smoke screens for their failures.”

For more information on upcoming traffic changes, detour routes and alternative travel options, visit BuiltforCBR.act.gov.au/travel-impacts.

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