JOHN O’Rafferty uses the Pacific Highway almost daily and sees many narrowly avoided crashes at the intersection of Houston Mitchell Drive.
The problem, he says, is insufficient room for traffic from Houston Mitchell Drive to merge safely with south bound traffic travelling at 110kph; the south bound sliplane to turn from the highway into Houston Mitchell isn’t long enough and motorists must pull over quickly and brake hard to turn left; and traffic crossing the highway to and from the north bound lane face a confusing stand-off in the middle.
He wrote to Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and the council raised the issue with the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay.
Mayor Peter Besseling told the Courier the danger facing motorists at the intersection was raised in a meeting with Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams and Minister Gay in 2012 and again in June this year.
The Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is currently resurfacing the highway around the intersection and installed a contra-flow lane for the purpose of diverting traffic around the upgrade.
Cr Besseling said the work presented an “immediate opportunity” for the RMS to use equipment and staff currently at the site to design and construct a slip lane for the south bound traffic to safely merge onto the highway.
“It’s been acknowledged that this is an issue which has been raised again and again,” Cr Besseling said.
“It would make sense that while the machinery is there to look at putting in a slip lane, at the very least, to provide safety for our community.”
John O’Rafferty said the ideal solution would be an overpass.
“I realise money doesn’t grow on trees. In the short term, building a slip lane south and extending the slip lane on the northern side of the intersection would help.”
He remembers the number of fatal crashed at the highway and Lakes Way intersection near Forster before the overpass was constructed after the duplication of the Pacific Highway went through.
“The overpass (at Houston Mitchell) should have been considered when the RMS were building the highway. There is going to be a fatality there for sure,” he said.
At Houston Mitchell Drive, highway traffic approaches over the nearby hill crest leaving motorists waiting at the intersection very little time to make the judgement on whether or not it’s safe to cross or build up speed to merge.
“With the highway upgrade happening at the Sancrox area, they’re building an overpass straight away. I think the Houston Mitchell intersection is an oversight,” Mr O’Rafferty said.
“With all the new development happening and the upgrade of Houston Mitchell Drive, we want to encourage traffic onto the highway, but I know people who avoid the intersection because of the danger turning both north and south.
“Just yesterday at about 4.30pm there was a truck with a dog trailer turning from Houston Mitchell Drive to the north bound lane and the traffic travelling south had to brake hard to avoid running into him,” Mr O’Rafferty said last Tuesday.
“Without the road works happening at the moment, traffic on the highway is travelling at 110 kilometres an hour. Crossing the highway to head north is more dangerous than turning south. There really needs to be an overpass.”
Local State MP Leslie Williams said she had raised the issue with the RMS.
She said the RMS will develop a Pacific Highway post duplication strategy to:
“Houston Mitchell Drive intersection will be included in this process. Presently this intersection is not included in any program for improvements,” Mrs Williams said.
“Maintenance work currently underway on 6.5 kilometres of the Pacific Highway between Kew and Port Macquarie is being carried out to improve the road surface of the highway.”