Your fine paper recently reported that Transport for NSW will go back to the drawing boards to carry out a strategic investigation into widening Thirroul Railway Bridge. I would just like to point out that this will not fix the primary constraint of being virtually the last significant choke point in the City of Wollongong.
For almost every other Wollongong resident, there is an alternate route if a nearby main road becomes blocked. However, if this railway bridge is blocked, then traffic along Lawrence Hargrave Drive (LHD) stops. This bridge has no bypass. There is no way out of the northern suburbs except for a 40km diversion via Helensburgh.
The foot of Bulli Pass one kilometre south also provides the risk of a similar choke point. The difficulty of this location is reduced by Pass Avenue which provides a difficult bypass route. After a minor accident on LHD within kilometres of either bridge, traffic has backed up leading to gridlock. If gridlock lasts over, say 30 minutes both bridges can become impassable and 2000 people may be effectively locked up.
Further north from Austinmer to Wombarra residents have secondary access routes via Buttenshaw Drive which provides a bypass around any LHD blockage. However if a medical emergency coincides with a gridlock event, an ambulance would need to come from Engadine then return to the nearest Hospital, Sutherland. This is an hour and a quarter round trip outside peak hours. Is this safe? Would a second road provide a better solution?
There are at least five options for a bypass. Each option risks upsetting some residents, however the alternative is to perpetuate a growing risk to residents of the Northern Illawarra. Then a former horse bridal track called LHD, that changes direction every few hundred metres will end up as a convoluted four lane highway, forever damaging the character, liveability and commercial viability of Thirroul.
Most outlying suburbs of Wollongong, like Balgownie, Port Kembla, Mt Kembla and Mt Keira at some time, were linked to Wollongong by a single road. Over time road networks merged them into Wollongong. Each time, I'm sure some residents were inconvenienced, but is this not how cities grow? Road networking is the very fabric of a modern city.
Thirroul became a suburb of Wollongong in 2005 yet remains isolated by single road access. Is it not time for our actual merger into Wollongong? This is a difficult problem with a unique geographical situation that has evolved over a long period of time. It appears that recent changes to state electoral boundaries have led to political need for a rushed solution but really, given the events of the last few years, don't we need a public review into transport in the Northern Illawarra?
Murray Jones, secretary, Thirroul Village Committee
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