Council plays swings and roundabouts


The intersection of Undoolya Road and Wills Terrace, looking towards the causeway across Todd River. Photo by Alex Nelson.  

Is there really a case for a roundabout at the Undoolya Road – Sturt Terrace intersection? And how much support is there for it from the residents of Eastside?
Mayor Damien Ryan is having his doubts.
Papers presented to councillors at last night’s meeting revealed that only four replies had been received in response to council’s 1500 invitations to comment.
Three of the four opposed this expenditure of $300,000 of taxpayers’ money.
“Better spent elsewhere”, said one.
“Expensive option” and better “to reduce the speed limit to 40kph across the causeway and through the intersection”, said another, also pointing to the need for guard rails to protect the child care centre on the intersection.
It won’t alleviate the main issue at the intersection, argued another, which is to do with sight-lines impeded by the Wills Terrace footbridge. This resident also argued that Alice Springs drivers don’t know how to use roundabouts and so contribute to traffic congestion, something councillors agreed with and will look to an education campaign to address.
The sole letter in support deemed the intersection “dangerous” at busy times of day and also talked of wait times to turn into Undoolya Road from Stuart Terrace of “up to four minutes”.
Mayor Ryan’s conclusion was that, with only four responses to 1500 invitations and with three of those against, the people of Eastside did not seem to want this roundabout. This was reinforced by views he had heard by callers to local radio.
Council’s Director of Technical Services, Greg Buxton, countered that non-response indicated “acceptance”.
“A very bureaucratic answer, with respect,” said Mayor Ryan, speaking to the meeting by phone.
He was also shocked at the low level of response in writing. Had council used its database to address letters to individuals, as should have been done in a “true consultation”, he wanted to know. Apparently not. The letter drop was to anonymous householders.
Mr Buxton said the whole process was started three years ago in response to residents’ concerns about the intersection. Mayor Ryan asked that he produce the letters from that time.
“Are you happy with that, Mr Buxton?” asked Cr Liz Martin, in the chair.
“I’m happy to follow instructions,” said Mr Buxton crisply.
The upshot is that a decision on whether or not the roundabout will go ahead has stalled at least until the next council meeting. (If rejected, the $300,000 would have to go back to the Commonwealth.)
Mayor Ryan did not get support from his fellow elected members on avoiding “another concrete roundabout” as have proliferated in the CBD in the past few years. He wanted something more pleasing to the eye.
Mr Buxton said landscaping of roundabouts contributes to deterioration of the roads around them because of water usage.
The drainage should be built so that that doesn’t happen, countered Mayor Ryan.
That would increase the cost, said Mr Buxton.
But the decider for the councillors was that the proposed roundabout should be “mountable”, that is, by heavy vehicles. So if it goes ahead, concrete it will be.
There was some discussion about an alternative to the roundabout, as proposed by a caller to Radio 8HA yesterday. This was to put a median strip on Sturt Terrace, forcing drivers travelling south towards Undoolya Road and wanting to turn right, to instead turn left and go up to the roundabout at the Lindsay Avenue intersection.
However Mr Buxton said that would not take account of concerns over traffic travelling through the causeway, heading east, one of which is that if the vehicle is moving at speed, it could become airborne.
COMMENT: According to the meeting papers, funding was first applied for in the 2010-11 financial year. That was unsuccessful, but a second application in 2011-12 hit the jackpot. This was announced at the end of May.
The consultation, such as it has been, was done subsequently.
If such decisions are to be guided by the community, is this not a case of cart before the horse, as appears also to be the case, on a grander scale, with the regional waste management facility (see separate story this issue).
See also ALEX NELSON’s comment piece: The Magic Roundabout of Alice in Blunderland.


  1. There seem to be two main concerns here, traffic congestion and the child care centre.
    Surely residents of the Old Eastside hurrying to work in the mornings and finding it difficult to turn right onto Undoolya Road when travelling south on Sturt Tce. know what they are getting into. Couldn’t they approach Undoolya from Lindsay Ave. instead and avoid the problem that way?
    And will a roundabout solve the danger of a car crashing through the fence into the child care centre? A line of heavy duty crash bollards might be a better idea, and the bill for building and placing them could be sent to DCA for not insisting on them when they granted permission for a child care centre to go there in the first place.
    Maybe a 40kmh speed limit on the causeway would be a good idea, although I doubt anyone will pay much attention to it without a permanent speed camera in place.
    Then return this funding to the Commonwealth and reapply for it so a roundabout can go in at the intersection of Bradshaw and Larapinta.

  2. It seems to be overkill to spend $300,000 for what is maybe less than 10 cars lined up for less than 10 minutes to get to work in the morning. (And yes I do go past that intersection close to 8am every work day!) Perhaps if the council concentrated on getting the lights near Todd Tavern working to give longer right of way for the necessary time in the morning to people crossing Todd River, there wouldn’t even be this debate. I think Damien is on the money this time.

  3. Lack of response means lack of interest … an expense of $300,000 for a lack of interest seems to be a high cost to pay for nothing much!

  4. Is there not a potential river crossing bridge going to be built here between the Todd Tavern? If so the roundabout will then need to be taken away again.
    My 2 cents.

  5. Zac, building another rarely needed bridge only a few hundred metres from one that is adequate for Eastsiders to get to and from town during floods would seem to me to be an irresponsible waste of public funds – almost as irresponsible as building an overpass for the railway crossing at Billygoat Hill would be.
    As for the proposed roundabout, I heartily agree with Alex and others who have commented here: the person responsible for authorising that a childcare centre could be allowed on this site in the first place should be made to pay for bollards and whatever else that might be needed to protect it better from the very occasional vehicle which might otherwise crash through its fence.
    A roundabout would seem to be a risky development in that it may be more likely than the present arrangement to divert out-of-control speeding cars into the yard of the childcare centre, plus possibly make crossing these roads even more difficult for the many school children and others who have to cross this intersection at peak traffic times on foot or bicycle.

  6. What a waste of time and money. I have lived on Eastside for 22 years and travel this road everyday (which equates to over 20,000 times) and I have never had a serious issue at this intersection. It seems the issue is between 7.50am-8.20am Mon-Fri only, so if you don’t like getting caught in a little bit of a delay go over the bridge! And like most Eastsiders we deal with a little minor inconvenience each day going this way, so be it. Save the money!

  7. If a roundabout is built, some Alice Springs drivers may have to be taught how to use a roudabout properly ie. get the idea of “giving way to the right” out of your head. That rule does not apply to roundabouts, and people who think it does are the main reason they are not used efficiently in this, and many other towns.

  8. @Ray OK. now I’m confused. I thought giving way to the right was the rule when entering a roundabout, but once on one, there is no right, only exiting to the left. Or are you referring to roundabouts with two lanes of traffic?
    I asked Council to run a public awareness campaign at their committee meetings last Monday night. I now realise that one is needed more than ever.

  9. Hi Hal, the “give way to the right” rule is primarily used at uncontrolled interesections. At roundabouts, the rule is that you give way to all traffic on (or in) the roundabout. It really means that a car on your left is on the roundabout before you are, you must yield to them, even though you are on their right. The problems I see in this town is people stop at roundabouts and wait for any vehicle that is on their right, even ones that nowhere near entering. This prevents the traffic flowing smoothly through the roundabout so they are not operating as efficiently as they should. Interesting to note Hal, that no vehicle has “right of way” over another, but all have an obligation to “give way” in certain circumstances. Here is the link to the relevant section of the Australian road rules on roundabouts.
    I hope council does not need to run an information session, as having a valid licence should mean people understand road rules as they apply throughout the country. I have also seen comments where people say there needs to be signs showing which way to go, but these signs are already there, they are shaped like an upside down triangle at the entrance to all roundabouts, in the “Give Way” format, that show the direction of travel with direction arrows (clockwise) and also indicate that you give way to all traffic on the roundabout as per my points above.
    Hope this helps Hal

  10. @Ray
    Thanks for the link. As I thought, we give way to the right when entering but only to traffic already there. We don’t give way to the vehicles on our right but not yet on the roundabout. That would be getting into the 4-way stops such as are used in the US, and that’s a different system again.
    I agree that these are rules that everyone “should” know, but from comments in the local press, often either don’t or are uncertain.
    Council has a role to play here in ensuring public awareness, especially as they put the things there in the first place. For my part, I’m glad they did. Used properly, roundabouts work well to keep traffic moving.
    If Council runs a public awareness campaign, I hope they also stress not to push up too fast when pedestrians are waiting to cross. Motocars aren’t alone at those intersections.
    And watch for the bikes!


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