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After years of appeals Tuross Head community finally wins over red tape and the NO word

In October 2018 the first action in listening to and respecting the concerns of the Tuross Head community in regards to the safety around the Princes Highway Intersection for Tuross Head was undertaken with a sod turning by the then Member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis.

The community, via the Tuross Head Progress Association (THPA), had lobbied anyone who would listen trying to make them aware that the intersection was dangerous. They had approached the Eurobodalla Traffic Committee advising of the many near misses at the intersection and warned that it would only be a matter of time before there was a fatality. The THPA requested on-site inspections of the intersection and that a study be carried out on the speeds of highway vehicles, raising concerns that sight distances were too short. In the end it was revealed the sight distances met the minimum requirements. Not happy with that bureaucratic response the THPA reminded the RMS that the median age of Tuross Head residents reflected the average for the shire and as such were older than the "average motorist" with average reactions. The Chair of the Eurobodalla Traffic Committee said at the time that there was no further action required and the community was reminded at the time the intersection was under the control of the RMS and that Council was in accord with the RMS findings that nothing needed to be done. Rather than advocating further on behalf of the community the Council was happy to wash their hands of the matter and told the THPA there was no point in any further appeal from them. THPA Secretary John Tilbrook refused to take NO for an answer, recognising the danger of the intersection. He then began lobbying higher authorities and gain the attention of the Member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis. Anne negotiated the project funding to support the upgrade and improve road safety saying at the time"The works will be extensive and will include the creation of a dedicated left-turn lane from the Princes Highway onto Hector McWilliam Drive as well as a new sealed commuter car park to replace the existing car park." "Other works include the installation of a concrete median and moving the stop line forward on Hector McWilliam Drive, widening the bus bay and extending it to the south. This will allow buses to park further away from the intersection, improving sight distance."

Above: October 2018. The first sod turn by Member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis The $1.4 million Federally-funded safety upgrade of the Princes Highway intersection with Hector McWilliam Drive near Tuross Head was completed in February 2019. With a new intersection and extended carpark many felt the danger had passed however it was noted that motorists were still at risk, often seen "rolling" through the Give Way sign. Following a serious accident in February 2020 a further safety initiative was put in place at the request of the THPA - a STOP sign, along with a narrowing of the intersection. John Tilbrook passionately represented the Tuross Head community and had identified that the intersection was more than just the issue. A bus layby had long existed on the southern side of the intersection. He advised RMS that the scope of their work needed to extend to catering for buses and offered photographic examples pointing out that motorists could not see around buses when they were parked.

So the RMS tacked on a bus layby south of the intersection. Alas it was problematic.

John Tilbrook said at the time "the new Bus bay is far too narrow, whereby coach drivers have to pull their buses off the highway well to the left beyond the white solid line on the eastern side of the asphalted surface."

"Of great concern is the location of the extended deep ditch with steep sloping sides that impedes the safe loading and unloading of passengers baggage from the the underbus cargo compartments."

"The coach drivers have to walk along the side of the bus in this ditch, and have to stand in this muddy ditch to open up the buses luggage compartments and to handle luggage." he added.

"The steep sides of the ditch are slippery in inclement weather and therefore is a distinct public safety risk to both drivers and passengers."

John offered several suggestion to the RMS to consider that might give them an out from what is obviously a major design failing on their part. He suggested an extended stormwater drainpipe be laid in the bottom of this ditch and then back filled with crushed rock to create a hard standing area adjoining the asphalted bus parking bay? And while they are at it why not provide a covered bus shelter; the reason being that if it is raining the only option that was and is still available to passengers is to sit in a car for which there is no location other than a carpark some sixty meters away. "If only the RMS had consulted with the community, passengers and bus drivers." "The bus stop on the western side of the road (below) exposes our community to undue risk when crossing the road or picking up and dropping off. It is certainly an accident waiting to happen".

And always at the back of his mind was the option that a bus, travelling either north or south, could turn into Hector McWilliam Drive from the highway and stop adjacent to an all weather bus stop to pick and set down passengers. But everytime he raised this the response indicated that those in charge believed it was all too hard and all too expensive. But he persisted. And finally it has paid off. Council has been successful in securing grant funding of $362,233 for 2020-21 under the new Road Safety Program, jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments as part of the economic stimulus. The funding provided allows for the upgrade of the parking facilities on Hector McWilliam Drive to allow relocation of the bus stop off the Princes Highway to a safer location. The new Tuross Head bus stop will be relocated to within the off-street carpark on Hector McWiliam Drive, near the Princes Highway. The relocation of the bus stop will allow for safer pick up and drop off for bus passengers, improve accessibility and provide a more comfortable waiting area. Council will maintain the car park and bus shelter, both of which will be located within Council’s road reserve.

The John Tilbrook Bus Stand is finally within reach thanks to the tenacity and the temerity of one man who would NOT take NO for an answer. .

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