overpass underpass
Under, over and out: intersections we don’t want

Lurking in the background during this election campaign is a promise we hope never gets delivered... no matter who wins office.

The coalition has committed to replacing 55 intersections with underpass/overpass structures at a cost of up to $3.5B.

It has already identified 35 junctions that it wants to do away with.

Make no mistake, this is a dreadful idea for people who ride bikes.

And who walk. And who run businesses, or live, or go to school anywhere near one of these proposals.

And probably even for those who drive.

In the '50s, '60s and '70s, authorities and communities thought the answer to congestion was making traffic flow by building bigger roads, and then underpasses avoid intersections.

It didn’t work. Congestion just kept on increasing as cars flowed in to crowd out every speck of additional space created.

Billions spent and nothing gained.

Sixty years later we have learned our lesson and know better.

Except for politicians.

The idea seems simple: grade separate the intersection and we can do away with traffic lights.

In the process we did away with whole neighbourhoods: if they didn’t die due to construction impacts, they died from the impacts of high speed traffic roaring through the streets.

Guess what? To bring these communities back to life we are now removing these same overpasses. Many Melburnians would remember the King/Flinders Street overpass being pulled down not so many years ago.

It is almost impossible to build bike infrastructure into the overpass/underpass model. Traffic speeds are high, slip lanes bring fast traffic across bike lanes, making a right turn becomes nearly impossible, as does something as simple as getting to the other side of the street.

Of course there are some junctions where, because of unusual layout, gradients or other features, grade separation may be preferable. In those cases, with the right planning and investment, bike routes can be made to work.

See the coalition's traffic light removal plans here.

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