SASTR response to announcement of funding of roadworks on Toodyay Road
Toodyay Road is a beautiful scenic road that takes you from Perth to the heritage town of Toodyay.
Tourists wander out yonder (State government campaign) to see beautiful wildflowers, amazing stands of ancient trees and vistas out to the hills and surrounding agricultural landscape. The environmental policy of the State Labor Party says that “WA Labor believes that our unique and endangered wildlife and remarkable landscapes are a central part of our State’s heritage, and important to our culture and identity of West Australians. As such we believe it is our responsibility to protect it for future generations”.
Current plans for Toodyay Road by Main Roads WA (MRWA) will lead to over 57 ha of vegetation cleared over a 27 km stretch from Dryandra Road to the Toodyay townsite. The campaign for a Safe and Scenic Toodyay Road (SASTR) challenge these plans and ask them to consider alternative methods to improving the safety of Toodyay Road through a reduced clearing footprint and maintaining the biodiverse and tourist value of Toodyay Road.
The alternative ways to improve road safety (recognised by the State Government’s Road Safety Strategy for Western Australia 2020-2030) include audible edge and centre lines proven to reduce crashes by 80%, and the sealing of hard shoulders which are proven to reduce crashes by 55%. Reducing speed is another important factor. It is estimated that 55% of crashes happen at 110 kph (so slow down and enjoy the ride). The use of protective barriers is another technique we would like to see used as an alternative to large-scale clearing. Better signage and road markings are also important in improving the awareness of road users.
MRWA have based their plans to improve the safety of Toodyay Road based on data in the Wheatbelt Safety Review of 2011-2015 but recent statistics show that since then Toodyay Road is not such a dangerous road with the KSI (killed and seriously injured) index in the last 5 years coming down from 0.700 to 0.200.
The emphasis on safety, used as a means to obtain land clearing permits applications, and presented at every community reference group meeting, is only half the story. The push for the upgrade is also driven by the need to provide a faster route for heavy haulage trucks. If indeed the upgrade of Toodyay road is based on economic reasons, then we need to see the evidence such as a business case for the upgrades. This would be consistent with the State Government’s Driving Change Road Safety Strategy which states: “Actions designed to deliver priorities will be based on evidence. Actions will be measured for their effectiveness and their impact will inform future decision making”.
Finally, SASTR wants the MRWA process for community consultation through a reference group (CRG) to be greatly improved. Deficiencies with the current process include inadequate maps of scales that are difficult to interpret, conflicts of interest with members of the CRG benefiting from the sale of land to MRWA, no walk-through inspections of the upgrade areas and very little opportunity to make any significant changes to draft plans. It is far from a genuine community consultation exercise.