It is understandable that residents of the Southern Highlands want to protect the liveability, aesthetic character, and nationally important heritage of Mittagong town.
As our population continues to increase at a rapid pace, current traffic infrastructure is proving insufficient.
Just prior to the opening of the Mittagong bypass section of freeway in 1998, the local community forecast a problematic funnelling of traffic right through the centre of the small, historic town. They lobbied the Government to build both northbound and southbound entry and exit ramps at Welby and Aylmerton. Only northbound ramps were built at Aylmerton and only southbound ramps were built at Welby. Twenty-five years later the community’s prediction of overwhelming traffic flows are reality and the call for those freeway entry and exit ramps is growing louder and more urgent.
Road infrastructure has not kept pace with development of Mittagong’s commercial areas. Situating a major retail hub next to a freeway is a great idea if there are freeway entry and exist points for heavy vehicles nearby. Unfortunately, there is no northbound freeway exit or entry near the Highlands Marketplace and Highlands Hub Supercentre (recently renamed HomeCo. Highlands) site and vital deliveries to and from Sydney must come right through the historic heart of Mittagong. Residents of the Highlands expected that when the Marketplace opened in 2007, appropriate road infrastructure would be added to the freeway junction at Welby.
Fifteen years on, nothing has been done and yet the retail area, and the traffic that services it, continues to grow. Residents value the services available at Mittagong Marketplace and Highlands Hub and appreciate the drivers and their vehicles who bring essential supplies, but they are frustrated by the mismatch between traffic infrastructure planning and zoning for industrial and commercial business.
Twenty-five years after the Mittagong section of the freeway was built, the addition of a northbound freeway entry and exit point at Welby is overdue. Our truck drivers deserve a route to their delivery points that is fast, safe, and efficient and does not require queueing in narrow intersections. Our pedestrians should be able to traverse the roads safely. The viability of local cafes and shops depends on the preservation of the heritage streetscape. The sound of engines and brakes shouldn’t be flooding into our homes and schools and the journey between Bowral and Mittagong should not have motorists sitting in a traffic jam each morning and evening.
The positive impact of northbound freeway entry and exit ramps goes far beyond the centre of Mittagong to the northern areas of Braemar, Nattai Ponds and Aylmerton and the communities along Fitzroy Crescent, Southey Street and Renwick Drive. As extensive areas north of Mittagong have become residential, the roads through and around them ought not threaten the liveability of the area. Residents are keen to protect the precious social connections that build over years in stable neighbourhoods. They want to avoid the loss of families who find living next to the Old Hume Highway unpleasant because of large traffic volumes, increased heavy vehicle movements, exhaust fumes and accelerating engine noise. Even families who live many blocks from the Old Hume Highway near Lake Alexandra have shared their disappointment about the impact of traffic to and from Sydney funnelled through Mittagong town. Northbound freeway entry and exit ramps at Welby are needed to restore the amenity of Mittagong.
While some may judge the current traffic flows as tolerable, what becomes of Mittagong if the ramps are not built?
Let’s plan for them now as the emerging problems are still solvable.