'Game changer' plan turns to chaotic bungle for Rocky road
IT WAS a traffic diversion years in the making.
Yet Councillor Tony Williams believes there was no real plan for the Upper Dawson Rd diversion in the flood, forcing a last minute scramble for road-widening works and days of confusion for motorists.
Keeping the Bruce Hwy open with the Yeppen Bridge during the floods was talked up as a "game changer" for Rockhampton, allowing transport vehicles to continue their passage north and connecting Gracemere residents.
However, according to Cr Williams, B-double trucks were never part of the original plans from the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR).
It was a "last minute" call to allow the trucks through the city, via Upper Dawson Rd and Derby St, which saw Rockhampton Regional Council crews working into the night to cut away sections of kerb to allow larger vehicles through the roundabout at Allenstown Square.
Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group, Cr Williams coordinated responses from all organisations during the flood.
He told The Morning Bulletin he was told several times there was a plan in place for the Yeppen diversion, but at the eleventh hour was told the council-controlled road needed to be ripped up to allow access.
"We had made arrangements for TMR and Ergon to have a desk at the Local Disaster Coordination Centre," Cr Williams said.
"For what reason I'm not sure, it might have just been the scale of work TMR were undertaking, they weren't able to have someone there at that time at the early stages when we were working through those traffic management plans and trying to get those messages out to the public.
"We were told there was a management plan in place once the Yeppen had been opened for a flood event and even at the start of the Local Disaster Management Group meetings, I asked if they had a plan in place and I was assured it was.
"It was something we struggled with, getting the right information."
Once it was decided B-doubles would be allowed through, the diversion still took several iterations.
An early map shows northbound light vehicles would have been detoured along Upper Dawson Rd, onto Penlington St, Davis St, Canning St, down Denham St and linking up with George St.
Meanwhile, northbound heavy vehicles and all southbound traffic would detour via Derby St and Upper Dawson Rd.
This was eventually changed to see all traffic diverted along Upper Dawson Rd and Derby St.
"It wasn't a plan that was trialled so to speak," Cr Williams said.
At some times side streets were also closed to all but local traffic, further confusing residents.
Although there were major traffic delays along the route, Cr Williams said the saving grace was that the flood happened during school holidays.
If the timing had been different, he said it was likely Allenstown State School and St Peter's Catholic Primary School may have been forced to close.
"It would have made it a nightmare had the schools been open," Cr Williams said.
While it's understood the kerbing will be replaced around Allenstown Square in coming weeks, Cr Williams said council officers believed it could be months before the full extent of damage to Upper Dawson Rd was fully realised.
In response to the interviews with Cr Williams, The Morning Bulletin put the following questions to TMR:
Will the road be returned to its original state, or will measures be implemented to allow the safe passage of B-doubles in the event of future flood diversions?
The council has informed us that TMR did not have a representative at the Local Disaster Coordination Centre in the early stages of flood preparation and traffic management plans. Why was TMR not involved in these discussions?
Why was B-double access not included in TMR's original diversion plans?
At what time was the decision made to allow B-double access?
Why was this B-double access not planned in advance, given the years the department has had to prepare for a flood of this size?
Why were traffic management plans altered so close to the closure of the road?
Why weren't traffic management plans trialled prior to a flood event?
Although TMR did indicate a removable kerb solution may be implemented at Allenstown Square in preparation for future flood events, they were not as forthcoming on many of the questions posed.
"The Yeppen South operational plan achieved what was intended - keeping Rockhampton open for business," a spokesperson said.
"The 2017 flood was the first time the Yeppen traffic switch was implemented since completion of the bridges south of Rockhampton.
"This was a major coordination challenge ensuring local and Bruce Hwy traffic remained connected.
"As the Main Roads and Road Safety Minister stated when he was up there to see the switch in action during the floods, there were teething issues with the temporary diversion routes and lessons will be learnt.
"We're committed to reviewing the Yeppen South operational plan in preparation for future weather events.
"Reviews of traffic management plans are not unusual to ensure the safety and efficiency of the network for all road users.
"There was no major damage to the detour route and any minor repairs required to this section of the local network will be within our operating budget and carried out by council.
"We are also looking at future improvements including returning the Allenstown Square roundabout to its original form with improved easy-remove traffic calming to support future events."