Ah, Autumn - it's been wonderfully peaceful in our little corner lately, save for the skull-shattering grind of earth moving machinery and the ambient, misanthropic profanities of construction workers. With the underground car park finally excavated and sealed, work on the Merri Apartments seems to be moving apace. We'll probably have something suitably enormous to look at by the end of the year... and the new townhouses on Sth Park Street are all but done.
Meanwhile, Council is getting things moving with traffic treatments in the area, having finally secured the funding to do so in the current Council Budget year. For the amnesiac, this reflects a long process that commenced with a really useful consultation session Cr Trent McCarthy convened with Council traffic officers and residents back on 9 December, 2010. From this flowed recommendations to Council in March 2011 to fund the measures discussed at that forum and the reports later circulated via our email circulation list. The first report is within the Council Minutes, online here (pg 11) . We all generally agreed that, aside from the recommendation to reopen Union St to two-way traffic at Merri Parade (madness - it was closed many years ago after some horrible accidents on the blind corner and would require traffic lights to reopen - which would be great for pedestrians and bikes actually), the report was pretty good.
The 2011 report proposed a number of "threshold treatments" which we have already had installed at the entries to our streets, except the corner of Charles and South Park (in progress). It proposed to raise the level of the entire "T" intersection of South Park Street with Bridge Street, effectively making it one big speed hump while promoting pedestrian crossing to and from the Merri Station. South Park Street is becoming a particular through-traffic problem in our area since the redevelopment of the St George's Rd intersection made a right-turn from Merri Parade into Charles St impossible, and traffic calming on this narrow road is definitely on the agenda.
The report also proposed a "go slow" narrowing point on Bridge St - very welcome. Lastly, extensive works for Charles Street were proposed - a "not so fast" campaign to discourage speeding, threshold treatments, remodelling the corner of Sth Park and Charles, and bike lanes.
Anyway, to cut a long (and reasonably tedious) story short, this didn't get funding in the 2011 budget but, with some lobbying and welcome Councillor support, the works got a look-in for 2012. This is great. However we've hit a bit of a snag in that some of the works on Charles St appear to have proceeded ahead of final consultation on the plans - maybe a crossed wire with the external contractors, or perhaps problems with the resident communications list. Some residents in Bridge St received notice of Charles St works while some Charles St residents received nothing, or received their notices a couple of days after works had actually commenced. Residents adjacent to the South Park St/Charles St intersection have required some very last minute consultation to address potential issues with drainage and landscaping. Hopefully this is all retrievable before concrete is poured.
Consultation is moving ahead more smoothly with the remainder - most of us have the consultation plans for Bridge and Union Streets (if you missed it, it's here). These are different to what was recommended back in 2011, so we'll get together with Council officers next week to work out where the issues lie. It's likely Council are seeking to avoid works adjacent to the Merri Parade development, for fear of the construction traffic trashing the new roadworks as they have with some of the newly installed threshold treatments. Fair enough, but that suggests a case to wait for another budget year (tricky for the traffic department, with an annualised budget system such as Council's requiring project funds to be expended within the same year) rather than a case to proceed in a less optimal position. There's also an absence of focus on Sth Park Street that most of us consider important, while the proposed "slow point" for Union Street appears redundant.
Council officers have very kindly agreed to meet with us on Monday. Rather than all of us meeting at once and overwhelming the process, let's get together at the Albion Charles tomorrow night at 8 to agree on our preferred street treatments, then decide on a smaller number of representatives to take this position forward productively.