NRMA says cars should take priority in Kings and Commonwealth Avenue plans

The NRMA says cars need to be given priority in Canberra’s urban planning, joining a chorus of groups to raise concerns about draft plans for Kings and Commonwealth Avenue development.

The National Capital Authority in May unveiled plans to reconfigure the roads as grand boulevards for easy cycling and walking.

But the plans, which would see on and off ramps on Kings and Commonwealth Avenues dismantled, speed limits reduced to 60km/h and opening up land either side of the avenue for development, have raised concerns it would create traffic chaos in Canberra south. 

In its submission to the authority the NRMA said the importance of the road network cannot be overstated and called for the priority in Canberra’s urban planning to be the accommodation of motorists.

The submission said the design had been informed by the federal government’s road user hierarchy framework, which places cars as the lowest priority for urban planning, which did not reflect the city’s actual transport movements.

The NRMA said it was concerned there was insufficient data to support the removal of on and off ramps to both avenues and the removal of look roads on King Avenue.

It said traffic lights should only be added to the roads when there is a clear road safety benefit for doing so otherwise it would unnecessarily impede traffic flow.

“The NRMA supports the Australian and ACT Government’s efforts to reduce congestion by encouraging alternative forms of transport,” the submission said. 

“The ACT has the third highest passenger vehicle ownership rate per 1000 population, with 83 per cent of residents in Canberra using their car to get to work,” the submission said.

“As such, a priority for urban planning in Canberra must be the accommodation of motorists.”

The NRMA said the draft design needed to take greater consideration of parking needs, noting employment in the parliamentary Zone was set to increase by about 50 per cent between now and 2041.

It said the proposed loss of 1410 parking spaces at Blamey Square will disadvantage motorists trying to access businesses in the surrounding areas. 

The Weston Creek Community Council was one of a number of councils to make submissions to the authority detailing concerns about the impact on commuters.

In its submission the council said the Authority was overlooking the travel needs of Canberra people, only focussing on the Parliamentary Triangle.

The council raised concerns with the parallels the authority made between Kings and Commonwealth Avenues to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC and Confederation Boulevard in Ottawa.

“Council agrees that both are major roads and used for ceremonial occasions,” the submission said. 

“However, neither are “lifeblood” roadways in their respective capitals like Kings and Commonwealth Avenues are in Canberra.”

The authority’s acting CEO Andrew Smith said it was committed to engaging with the community as part of its decision making.

He said the draft strategy proposes the road transport function of both Kings and Commonwealth avenues be retained while also accommodating a range of other transport options.

“To address these issues, the design strategy outlines the long-term vision and key principles to create memorable and functional public spaces,” he said. 

“The NCA is aware that traffic congestion is a key issue for our growing city and the draft strategy recognises that in the future there will be additional pressures placed on the road network.

“Traffic impacts informed by detailed traffic modelling will be further considered as part of the future phases of improving the avenues.”

He said the authority was preparing a consultation report which would be made publicly available once approved by the board.