A long-awaited plan for a ‘mini’ bypass of Byron Bay’s busy CBD, using a second rail crossing, has been pushed along by Byron Shire Council to allow access to state funding for it.
For years, increasing traffic and gridlocks, especially at the popular tourist town entry, have angered and frustrated locals and visitors alike but the urgency of the problem appears to have stirred both levels of government into action.
Recently, Ballina MP Don Page, who is the minister both for the north coast and for local government, asked Byron council to finalise a plan to solve the longtime issue in order for him to be able to push for funding for it.
Council seized the chance and last week gave the green light to the bypass, which will connect Butler Street with the busy intersection at Jonson and Marvell Streets, creating a second rail crossing south of the railway platform.
Mayor Jan Barham said the key to the solution was the second rail crossing, which straddled state government railway land, but state government funding is also vital for the project.
As a kickstart, Council has allocated $50,000 to draw plans up for the second rail crossing, which Cr Barham said would ensure the project was ‘shovel ready’ once state money was available. Council has also decided to trial the new traffic arrangement to ensure its effectiveness.
The mayor said a project reference group (PRG), made up of community members, councillors and staff, had also been formed to consider and recommend other options to make the town centre user friendly, such as park and ride, cycleways, parking and township ‘connectivity’.
The second rail crossing, or mini-bypass option, was endorsed in a major traffic study in 2008 as the best way to smooth traffic circulation and ease congestion in the town centre.
Byron United president Paul Waters, while welcoming the move, said a few other related options to ease congestion had to be part of the project to make it work.
Mr Waters said the suggestions, aired at a recent traffic and parking forum he was part of, included realigning the roundabout opposite the police station using two lanes in and out and building a southern access into the Lawson Street north carpark.
He told Echonetdaily he had faith that Mr Page would deliver on funding and his suggested extra works would not add very much to the overall cost of the project of around several millions dollars.