Angry members of the Tumut community are using their pens to galvanise government support for additional upgrades to a major town intersection in the form of a parliamentary petition that’s rapidly gathering signatures.
The action comes after a collision between a car and a truck at the intersection of Gocup Road, Snowy Mountains Highway and Capper Street in early May that resulted in the death of an ACT woman and her daughter.
Khayla Reno, 29, was 20 weeks’ pregnant at the time of the collision, which killed her 10-year-old daughter and left another child, aged four, seriously injured. Ms Reno died several weeks later in Canberra Hospital after the heartbreaking decision was made to turn off her life support.
According to Tumut locals, it was an accident waiting to happen.
There have been multiple promises about fixing the road from the NSW Government, but the community says despite several tranches of funding being allocated to the intersection, there’s been little change.
Snowy Valleys Council Mayor James Hayes described the proposed addition of traffic lights as “lipstick on a pig”.
NSW Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr said he’d been told there was an incident at the intersection once a week.
“Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened daily,” he said.
“The recently upgraded Gocup Road is wonderful, but for some reason no thought was given to how it ends. It comes into Tumut at an angle; it comes in on the wrong camber; trees block the view of the highway; and it actually joins up with a suburban street on the other side of the highway.
“So you’ve got this bizarre situation where you come off quite a clear highway-type road, you come to an intersection, the road approaches at the wrong angle, visibility is poor and you’ve got this road on the opposite side that’s a suburban road and, of course, you’ve got a highway running through it.”
Weekly traffic incidents and decades of campaigning for safety upgrades have mostly fallen on deaf ears.
“Locals label it a death trap and tragically that is what’s happened,” said Dr McGirr.
The NSW Government had set aside $500,000 in the 2017 state budget for an investigation into improving the notorious intersection, and settled on a set of traffic lights as the appropriate measure.
In 2019, the government then revealed that $1.8 million had been set aside for the project, indicating traffic lights would be installed as part of the works.
But by 24 April, the traffic lights had been shelved as part of the now $997,000 project – due to their high cost.
Mayor Hayes says the community is frustrated and disappointed at the lack of action.
“We looked at alternatives with them [Transport for NSW] but they weren’t minded that way,” he told the Tumut and Adelong Times. “It’s bittersweet. That they are doing something is good, but it’s not enough, which is bad.”
Forecasts of wet weather delayed preliminary works until 18 May, just two days after the fatal accident.
Work at the intersection included removing trees; upgrading line marking and vehicle-activated signs; installing transverse thermoplastic ‘rumble strips’; replacing give-way signs with stop signs; and installing medians, kerbs and a safety barrier to improve safety and traffic flow through the junction.
This work was in addition to the earlier installation of vehicle-activated signs to improve safety on the Gocup Road approach to the Snowy Mountains Highway.
“These signs display digital messages that warn road users to slow down, and they provide advance notice of conditions ahead,” said Transport for NSW.
Dr McGirr said the consensus among Tumut locals is that while it is an improvement, it’s not going to fix the problem.
He is behind the petition which calls on the NSW Government to urgently review and upgrade the intersection with additional safety measures deemed necessary to prevent future tragedies.
NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole told Region Media that Transport for NSW and the NSW Centre for Road Safety were undertaking a priority review of the intersection with a view to identifying permanent solutions to improve its safety.
“The review is almost complete and I look forward to discussing the outcomes and all proposed solutions with the local member and the community shortly,” he said.
“Dr McGirr and I both agreed the current roadworks to improve road safety were necessary and appropriate to help address the immediate road safety concerns at this location in the short-term.”
Petitions are now available at the Tumut and Adelong Times, Snowy Valleys Council, Tumut Newsagency and Dr McGirr’s office in Wagga Wagga.