• Newcastle Inner City Bypass benefits may have been ‘overstated’

    Vision: Artist’s impression of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass, looking north towards John Hunter Hospital. Picture: NSW Roads and Maritime.THE benefit of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass may have been “overstated” because of plans to only build a “half interchange” at the John Hunter Hospital, a NSW government department has argued.

    The Department of Health Infrastructure has warned that the full benefit of the $280 millionRankin Park to Jesmond section of the bypass wont be realised because the plan only includes a “half interchange” giving access to the hospital from one direction.

    Planning documents for the3.4 kilometre final stretch of the bypass show Roads and Maritime Services considered a full traffic interchange at the hospital, but opted for a single north-facing access because traffic modelling showed some 5000 fewer motorists would use a south access.

    “Given the lower volumes of traffic forecast to use the south-facing ramps, the modelling indicates the omission of south-facing ramps from the hospital interchange would have a low impact on traffic flow on the short section of Lookout Road between McCaffrey Drive and the existing eastern main hospital entrance,” the bypass Environment Impact Statement said.

    But Health Infrastructure has argued that with bed capacity at the hospital set to increase by about 50 per cent in the next 15 years –andan “equivalent” increase in traffic expected to follow – the half interchange willmean “vehicle queues would extend back well within the John Hunter Hospital campus”.

    Modelling done for the department shows queues on the north hospital entrance onLookout Road would extend back as much as 380 metres during peak hours, compared to 180 metres if the full interchange was built.

    “This has flow on benefits to the operation of the Lookout Road corridor,” the submission argues of the full interchange.

    Health Infrastructure also says its own traffic modelling raises doubts aboutthe claimed benefits of the bypass.

    While the EIS for the project states that 41 per cent of staff and visitors entering the hospital would use the new “half interchange” option, Health Infrastructure’s modelling says the figure is closer to 34 per cent.

    “Should a full interchange be provided, with turning movements permitted from both the north and south, 55 per centof all users would benefit from improved access into the campus,” the submission states.

    TheRankin Park to Jesmond sectionis the final piece of Newcastle Inner City Bypass, and comprises 3.4 kilometres of four-lane divided road between Lookout Road in New Lambton Heights and Newcastle Road in Jesmond.

    TheNewcastle Heraldhas previously reportedthat cyclists are angry that the northern interchange of the bypasswillinterrupt the existing Jesmond path,forcingcyclists and pedestrians to wait at three sets of traffic lights to cross one intersection.

    In its submission, Newcastle City Council has echoed that concern, saying the decision to “sever” the east-west link between from Hunter Stadium, through Jesmond Park to Wallsend will mean “significant delays to cyclists and pedestrians, which will likely encourage risk-taking behaviour”.

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