Residents and council have united to support a safety upgrade to the highway in Medlow Bath, saying it is much more urgent than the four-lane road the state government is planning.
The upgrade, including a right-hand turning lane into Bellevue Crescent, was promised in 2016 (in the Katoomba-Lithgow safety upgrade) but abandoned because of a shortage of funds.
Residents are now calling for it to be reinstated, a call echoed in an unanimous vote at council's June meeting.
A Transport for NSW briefing in Medlow last week told residents a turning lane would be incorporated into the highway duplication but that may be some years off.
Stephen Caswell, president of Medlow Bath Highway Action Group, wrote to TfNSW western boss, Alistair Lunn, after the briefing, outlining some of the community's fears including:
- Doubts about funding for the rest of the duplication;
- Concerns that four lanes through Medlow would only encourage people to speed to overtake slower vehicles; and
- Unease over removal of the angled parking outside the Hydro which provides a buffer between the pedestrian path and the highway.
Of particular worry, wrote Mr Caswell, was the safety aspect - the effects of having a four-lane highway book-ended by two lanes at either end.
"Widening the highway for just one kilometre through the middle of the village will encourage erratic driving behaviour with people attempting to overtake in such a short distance (including inside overtaking) ... threatening the safety of pedestrians and cyclists who would now be far closer to the highway under the new plan."
He said the whole concept was "fundamentally flawed" and the residents were fearful that their town and its amenity would be ruined by a project that was never completed.
"Your design is predicated on two lanes of traffic approaching Medlow Bath and two lanes of traffic leaving Medlow Bath (currently one in each direction) which means the Great Western Highway Upgrade Program must be completed in its entirety.
"Currently, the complete program is yet to have its route finalised, the assessments and impact studies completed, a business case prepared and, most importantly, secure a guarantee of funding - which is improbable."
"The complete program is unlikely to proceed and Medlow Bath will have been left with a hazardous design and a significant impediment to the free flow of traffic simply because someone needs to put a shovel in the ground," Mr Caswell wrote.
Mr Lunn told the Gazette: "Safety is our top priority for the Great Western Highway upgrade through Medlow Bath and improvements to the Bellevue Crescent intersection is a vital part of this upgrade.
"Planning for this work started this month to gather local input and experience for the safest possible intersection design.
"After speaking with the community through these sessions, the project team has committed to investigating short term improvement measures to improve safety at Bellevue Crescent and Foy Avenue.
"The design is being carefully planned to naturally slow traffic. This will help limit dangerous driver behaviour which can be further supported with effective on site police presence."
The community can register for the online community consultation sessions on the Medlow Bath section of the Great Western Highway upgrade by visiting nswroads.work/greatwesternhighway. A presentation will be delivered to attendees, followed by information on how they can best provide feedback.
Community consultation sessions will be held on:
- Wednesday, July 22: 7-8pm
- Thursday, July 23: 1-2pm
- Tuesday, July 28: 12-1pm and 7-8pm
- Wednesday, July 29: 7-8pm
- Thursday, July 30: 1-2pm
Residents unable to attend these sessions can provide feedback to the project team on 1800 953 777 or via email at email@example.com. Additional consultation will be held with key business stakeholders including the Hydro Majestic.