Backflip on Sturt Street closures, VicRoads goes back to the drawing board

New route: VicRoads designs for a new path through parts of Sturt Street's median gardens.
New route: VicRoads designs for a new path through parts of Sturt Street's median gardens.

A controversial proposal to close six Sturt Street crossovers has been doused, with the Andrews Government asking VicRoads to go back to the drawing board. 

The Roads and Road Safety Minister Luke Donnellan has asked VicRoads to undertake further design work and wider community consultation as it develops plans for the Ballarat CBD.

Among the changes drafted in VicRoads’ preliminary designs are the removal of crossover intersections at Lyon, Errard, Windemere and Talbot streets, with motorists able to turn on and off Sturt Street.  Alterations to intersections at Raglan and Ascot streets would allow drivers to perform a u-turn but not travel straight across Sturt Street. 

VicRoads will also reconsider a segment of cycling strip in the central median gardens between Pleasant and Dawson streets, heading onto a new track between the road and footpath down to Grenville Street.

“The people of Ballarat have spoken very clearly – the proposed changes to Sturt Street shouldn't go ahead – and we agree,” according to a spokesperson for the Victorian Government. 

“Sturt Street is a Ballarat icon and we won't be doing anything that undermines the history or character of this iconic boulevard.” 

The spokesperson said the work would continue on the plans for $9.3 million of cycling infrastructure for the city, but a fix would need to be found for Sturt Street’s “terrible crash history”.

In the five years up to June last year, there we 76 injury crashes on Sturt Street between Grenville Street and Pleasant Street, with 43 occurring at the six Sturt Street intersections without traffic lights.

People have had their say, I have had a look at the designs, the Premier has had a look at the designs, we’re sending VicRoads back to the drawing board on that part of the project.

Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford

Ballarat City Council will consider whether to partner with VicRoads on the Ballarat Cycling Connections plan at an ordinary council meeting next Wednesday. 

City of Ballarat officers had recommended councillors accept the partnership, with the cycling plan broken down into 14 different segments, which would each need to pass through council chambers before infrastructure works begin. 

Opposition Public Transport Minister David Hodgett said locals were best positioned to make decisions about their community, and it was vital that VicRoads and the Andrews Government underwent more community consultation with traders.

“It just seems that they’re going straight to the end of the queue, and saying, ‘let’s close the intersections.’ I don’t think that makes for good road management or common sense,” he said. 

“Is this the only option they’ve considered? Have they considered traffic lights, have they considered reducing speeds? Have they considered roundabouts or other traffic calming measures?”

Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford said at a press conference this afternoon that there needed to be more consultation in the case of changes to Sturt Street.

She said there had been an unhelpful merge between improving road safety at the six intersections and bike path design, but the Andrews Government remained committed to the $9.3 million cycling project. 

“People have had their say, I have had a look at the designs, the Premier has had a look at the designs, we’re sending VicRoads back to the drawing board on that part of the project,” she said. 

“But that said, we don’t want the other parts of the project to be unnecessarily held up.”

VicRoads were not available to comment.