Questions around the use of outdated traffic studies by Council and developers to plan the future of Byron Shire remain unanswered, says a local civil engineer.
Anthony Stante says the last comprehensive strategic traffic modelling to cover the whole Byron area was done in 2008. He said, ‘It is hopelessly outdated, considering changes to economic/tourism dynamics since then’.
‘All private developments since then, including both West Byron developments, hang their hat on the outdated model. Various bits are re-quoted to suit their individual agendas. Justifying why the development is possible, when it is not’.
Mr Stante said strategic traffic modelling should include the ‘massive upswing in tourist/day trippers since 2015’, and that ‘Airbnb has changed Byron significantly since 2008, with workers being moved to live outside town and needing to come into town during the AM peak when day trippers are arriving from the north.
‘The 2008 model does not take these types of changes into account. The completion of the Woolgoolga to Ballina highway upgrade in 2021 will exacerbate the issues with easy motorway access for day-trippers from the south, which has not been considered.
‘The current [Butler] bypass is a bandaid until more work and funds are committed by the state and local governments’.
‘In line with findings within Council’s outdated 2008 traffic report, West Byron’s developers point to Ewingsdale Road needing to be four lanes, ultimately all the way into town, to service current and future traffic demands.
‘This was confirmed in this week’s Land and Environment hearing on West Byron.
‘Beyond the $78 million just committed by the state government for the section of Ewingsdale Road around the new hospital, who will foot the remaining $200 million cost to build the four lanes?’
‘The proposed West Byron development’s Section 94 contributions certainly don’t contribute to the cost.’
Phil Holloway, Council’s Director Infrastructure Services replied to The Echo, ‘Council is currently working on a Shire-wide Integrated Transport Management Strategy. There has been a significant amount of work done to date, and the document is now in the final review phase prior to being placed on public exhibition for comment prior to adoption early 2021’.
Mr Stante said in response, ‘The question remains. Has a new regional traffic model been run with new data to feed the traffic model?’
‘If not, what is the timing for having one done, as it would likely steer the Shire-wide Integrated Transport Management Strategy.’
Mr Stante adds, ‘Without a new comprehensive regional traffic model with input of new up-to-date traffic data, destination surveys, tourist increase forecasts and latest census data, there is no point completing a strategy’.