Why is the Shire denying people the safest option for the Rail Trail crossing of Roughead St?

The Council is planning a new pedestrian crossing from the rail trail across the South Gippsland Highway. This will be located between the driveway into the Police Station and the driveway into the car park that runs up to the RSL. Rail Trail users are then expected to move past Autobarn, the old CFA building and the courthouse before heading up the hill to the Post Office corner. At this point, they need to cross McCartin St, adjacent the roundabout, to get to Bair St.

Car drivers will know that at roundabouts, vehicles have right of way over pedestrians. Rail trail users, after having enjoyed a pleasant ride without worrying too much about vehicles, now need to run the gauntlet of crossing to Bair St. with cars coming through the roundabout or whizzing up McCartin St from Roughead St.

Council have advised their risk assessment says this is all “safe and reasonable”. I am not sure if you end up as a truck bumper adornment, you will agree with this assessment. It should be noted that VicRoads advise that if safety interventions for a pedestrian at a roundabout are limited, they should seek an alternative route.

I have approached the Council staff about an underpass option for the rail trail at Roughead St. This would eliminate the need for two dangerous road crossings and be much safer. The staff agreed the underpass was the safest option. However, they suggested the cost was prohibitive.

At the Feb 24 Council meeting, the Council’s own report clearly indicates that an underpass was not costed. They suggested there would be services such as a sewer which would need shifting. False – there is no sewer across the rail line at Roughead St. The Council report suggested the underpass would cost similar to a proposed overpass structure which they costed at $4.8 million, all on the basis of not having costed an underpass.

Remember, the underpass is the safest option. An underpass was put under the highway at Loch, based on the pleas of 250 people of the Loch community when the highway was realigned around 10 years ago. Similarly, on the Goulburn Valley Highway, for the Great Victorian Bike Trail, they installed an underpass at a cost of $455,000. Why will the Shire not seriously evaluate the underpass option for Leongatha? Why are 5500 residents at Leongatha treated to a less safe environment than those at Loch?

The rail trail will become a major pedestrian and cyclist linkage for Leongatha if it is done right. That means we should have an underpass. There are no engineering constraints that would preclude an underpass. I am not saying it would not cost a substantial sum but the safety of our vulnerable people should have a better outcome. Where is the risk analysis for the underpass compared to the proposed on-street crossings? Council – it is time to start your correct community engagement process.

Lindsay Love, engineer and cyclist, Leongatha.