The making of a council decision roundabout versus traffic lights


Reading the reporting of the Council decision to have a new roundabout at 2 intersections in Yamba appears be a bit short of some of the worthwhile facts in the comparison of roundabouts – versus – traffic lights.

Council has a relatively simple problem to be solved. Yamba Road intersections will fail in the near future. Options are roundabouts or traffic lights. To do nothing is irresponsible in that it merely puts the problem off for others. The long-identified ‘Yamba Motorway’ or bypass road corridor has been hijacked by an orchid. And will remain ‘proposed’ until, if ever, an outbreak of rational decision-making occurs.

To have traffic lights is an easy decision for me when I considered the following:

The construction of one of the roundabouts requires a Yamba family to have their home taken from them. Traffic lights require no such forced removal.

The 2 Yamba roundabouts decision, Treelands Drive & Carrs Drive, will cost $4.71million more than would 2 sets of traffic lights. $6.07m -vs- $1.36m.

(Noting Council has for some 7 years been saying it’s in pursuit of ‘fiscal responsibility’ including adoption of a recent very large Special Rates Variation to help get the finances in order and have some money available for essential and long-overdue infrastructure works.)

The construction and 50-year operation of 2 roundabouts will produce 5,948 tonnes more harmful greenhouse gasses (co2-equivalent) than will be produced by installation and 50-year operation of 2 sets of traffic lights.

(Noting Council recently declared a climate change emergency, this is the first significant ‘climate harming’ decision made after that declaration.)

Roundabout constructions will require 6 months and severe traffic disruption to at least Carrs Drive. Traffic lights will require 2 months and negligible disruption.

Pedestrian and assisted mobility users are disadvantaged more by roundabouts than traffic lights.

Following construction of the 2 roundabouts, another 2 (Shores Drive & Palmers Island) intersections are identified as in need of upgrade.

The decision to support traffic light installations at all three Yamba intersections was an easy one for me when the massive additional cost of roundabouts was taken into account.

I accept a simple question such as: “what do you like – roundabouts or traffic lights?” will quite likely receive an instant personal ‘like’ response. I don’t look for shallow ‘likes’ in my role and decisions as a Councillor. However, I adopt the approach that I’m expected to dig deeper for my decision-making.

My considerations could give no weight to various unsubstantiated claims that “everyone in Yamba”, or “a majority of Yamba residents and visitors”, want roundabouts. I don’t expect any but the most narcissistic will say “yes, I want roundabouts even though we’ll only get 2 and even though just those 2 will cost $4.71 million more than the better alternative”, or “yes, I want roundabouts even though a family will lose their home” or, “yes, I want roundabouts even though roundabouts will pump an additional and unnecessary 6,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere”.

I’ve not yet met one single Yamba resident or visitor that is so self-indulgent as to support roundabouts – on the terms above – the same terms that resulted in a 5-3 decision to construct 2 roundabouts.

Andrew Baker, Maclean