Middleton residents have let their fury be known over the potential upgrade of an intersection, which would result in the redirection of B-Double trucks to pass through the centre of town, carrying stock and produce between Cape Jervis and Murray Bridge.
At a community meeting organised by the Middleton Town and Foreshore Association, more than 50 residents voiced their strong opposition to the proposal which they said was of "no benefit" to the town.
Alexandrina Councillor Michael Scott brought the issue to the attention of the Middleton Town and Foreshore Association, who moved quickly to send out flyers and arrange the meeting.
Alexandrina Council CEO Glenn Rappensberg and General Manager Infrastructure and Assets Simon Grenfell opened the meeting held on Tuesday, May 14, at Pioneer Hall, by providing background details to the proposal.
Alexandrina is a member of the Hill Southern LGA, alongside other regional councils and is therefore part of a joint Transport 2020 Plan, which was developed in 2009. Speaking to those in attendance, Mr Rappensberg said that as part of this plan, the need for a more effective freight route to take cattle to market had been identified.
"Currently vehicles travel from Cape Jervis up to Myponga, to Mount Compass, then up to Nangkita and then to Strathalbyn," he said.
"The long term plan that has been identified is a bypass for Middleton."
Such a bypass would ensure B-doubles were routed around Middleton, however Mr Rappensberg admitted such a project would be years in the making and heavily involve the State Government and Member for Finniss David Basham.
Instead, the current proposal would upgrade the intersection of Airport Road and Flagstaff Hill Road as a "stepping stone" towards this bypass, but would see B-doubles enter Middleton via Port Elliot Road until such a time that a bypass was constructed if funding could be secured. This did not go over well with residents however, who reacted angrily and questioned what benefit, if any, the proposal would have for their community, other than an upgrade to the intersection.
Two thirds of the cost to upgrade the intersection would be covered by the federal government under special local road funding, representing an opportunity for Alexandrina Council, but residents were firm in their response, that "we don't want the funding and we don't want trucks."
Speaking out, members of the crowd said there was "no direct benefit to Middleton" and that the town "would be the only community affected."
Concerns were raised over "increased traffic and danger," increased noise pollution, the potential impact on tourism and to traders who said they were already struggling with parking issues, exacerbated by truck drivers who already have access to the Main Street.
Also criticised, was the fact that traffic statistics for Middleton were last updated in 2002 and were therefore over a decade out of date and not representative of current traffic issues within the town.
Speaking out, one resident said the proposal was "ridiculous, a disaster waiting to happen and a very undesirable outcome for the community."
The resident further directed comments to council representatives that "to sit here and tell us it's an opportunity, is a slap in the face to this community."
A report on the proposal to upgrade the intersection will be brought before council on Monday, May 20 and Mr Rappensberg said it would include a number of options and that council "did not have a preferred position."
Included in those options would be the choice to not go ahead with the proposal and Mr Rappensberg said the community feedback and sentiment expressed during the meeting would be made clear in the report. The crowd erupted with jeers when they were informed they had until 12pm Tuesday, May 14, to request to present a deputation on the issue at next week's council meeting.
They were critical of the council for not engaging in thorough community consultation and questioned what would have happened if the meeting had not been arranged by the Town and Foreshore Association prior to a decision being made in the council chamber.
Ward Councillors Michael Scott and Bronwyn Lewis who were in attendance and also spoke, made it clear they would vote against the proposal, but urged the 50 residents in attendance to attend council on Monday night, to ensure their discontent was made clear to the rest of the chamber.
"We need your deputations, we are only two voices," Councillor Lewis said. "Having your voice there in council is important."
A large crowd is assured, with a majority of those in attendance suggesting they would attend the council chambers on Monday. The Town and Foreshore Association has passed a motion against the proposal.
That motion read: "with the information we have been given, MTAFA strongly opposes the routing of B-Doubles through the Main Street of Middleton."
On Wednesday 15 May, Alexandrina CEO Glenn Rappensberg released the following statement in regards to the issue:
There is an extensive State and Local road network in Alexandrina Council, with Council responsible for 1,348 km of local roads; both sealed and unsealed, and in built-up and non-built up areas.
As well as managing a specific road maintenance program of our own, Alexandrina Council also looks for opportunities to improve the road network for community, for industry and visitors via advocacy and external funding. Roads are critical to our region's growth, and improving regional road networks requires regional collaboration. Alexandrina Council is one of a number of councils considering the establishment of a South Coast Freight Corridor in partnership with the Southern & Hills Local Government Association.
Council recently prepared a Federal election advocacy paper on Roads and Road funding which was carried unanimously by Council on 15 April 2019, which includes a resolution that 'Alexandrina Council seeks consideration of parties and candidates for investment in constructing a bypass behind Middleton from the intersection of Airport Road and Flagstaff Hill Road to Waterport Road to build on the South Coast Freight Corridor, thereby supporting regional economic development as well as safety around a key coastal town.'
There are options for the South Coast Freight Corridor at Flagstaff Hill/Airport Road Junction for Council to consider, which includes either creating a bypass behind Middleton or going through Middleton. A bypass would require substantial financial investment from other levels of government.
The Corridor, if completed, would provide a gazetted route for 26m B-Double heavy vehicles from Cape Jervis to the South Eastern Freeway at Callington. The Corridor runs from Cape Jervis via Parawa, Victor Harbor, Port Elliot, Middleton, Strathalbyn to Callington. The eastern half of the Corridor from Goolwa Road/Alexandrina Road junction north of Goolwa to Callington is already gazette for 26m B-Double vehicles but the western half is not. A recent Heavy Vehicle Route Assessment undertaken by HDS Australia Pty Ltd, detailed the sections of road and intersections that are high risk and require improvements prior to allowing permits and the eventual gazetting of the route. One of the critical junctions in the corridor is the Flagstaff Hill / Airport Road Junction that would require upgrading to allow B-Double trucks to traverse the intersection.
In recognition of community concern about the possibility of B-doubles being allowed to go through Middleton, I attended a meeting coordinated by Middleton Town & Foreshore Association on Monday 13 May 2019. This community concern will be communicated to Council as part of a report to the 20 May 2019 Council meeting on whether or not to apply for the funding opportunity. Council's role on 20 May 2019 will include considering a range of factors such as community concern, the potential regional economic benefits of improved freight movement as well as the potential impact of B-Doubles on individual towns.
In addition, a Federal funding opportunity has recently arisen to apply through the Special Local Roads Program for 67% of the project, hence the timing of the report to Council on 20 May 2019.
Basham Backs the Bypass
Member for Finniss David Basham says he backs calls for the establishment of a freight corridor bypass, which would see traffic flow around the township of Middleton.
"Since long before I was elected I've considered the section of Port Elliot Road, between the intersections of Waterport Road and Flagstaff Hill Road and including Middleton's main street, to be a problem for our region," Mr Basham said. He described Middleton as a bottleneck between Victor Harbor and Goolwa, a view mirrored by residents who are concerned over increased traffic and the proposal before Alexandrina Council which if passed, would result in an upgrade to the Flagstaff Hill Road/Airport Road intersection, allowing B-double trucks to access Middleton's Main Street.
"During long weekends and holiday periods, the main street can be extremely congested and motorists seeking to turn right from Flagstaff Hill Road onto Port Elliot Road can face a very long wait," Mr Basham said.
"If for any reason the road between Waterport Road and Flagstaff Hill Road is closed the nearest way around is via Mount Compass, an extremely long detour."
A simple solution to the problem proposed by Mr Basham is a new road. This road would start from the intersection of Airport Road and Flagstaff Hill Road in Middleton and link up with Waterport Road past the Hill Street intersection. The route would make use of some existing dirt roads and would also require the construction of some new road on what is now private property.
"The long-term benefits to our community would be considerable. It would provide a dedicated freight corridor, removing trucks and semi-trailers from the current coastal road, and also provide a suitable route for 25-metre B-double vehicles without the need for them to travel through Middleton or Port Elliot. I've raised this matter with Alexandrina Council and Stephan Knoll, the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. I look forward to working with them to progress the proposal."
Mr Basham said the establishment of such a road would effectively create an alternative transport corridor for the South Coast and also significantly ease congestion during busy holiday periods.
As well as this, it would ensure there is a nearby alternative route should the main road be closed for any reason, such as an accident or maintenance works.