By ALEC SMART
Poorly-written signage, pitch-black footpaths after sunset, and construction work that nearby residents claim has almost ground to a halt, characterises a $2.1 million street widening and bridge strengthening operation at the interface between Camperdown and Annandale.
The widening of Booth Street across Johnston Creek, Annandale, is annoying more than a few of the residents who live in the vicinity of the construction site. City Hub was approached by tenants neighbouring the street-widening project who expressed their health and safety concerns with the pedestrian diversions. They also raised anxieties over whether the work will be finalised by its advertised October 2020 completion date.
Located at the southern end of Booth Street, in the stretch between Pyrmont Bridge Road, Camperdown, and the roundabout adjoining Wigram Road, Annandale, the main part of the widening and bridge strengthening operation is on the Camperdown side of the road, part of the City of Sydney local government area.
However, most of Booth Street lies in Annandale, with the bridge jointly-owned and managed by Inner West Council and the City of Sydney Council. The works are being managed by Inner West Council (IWC) and jointly funded by both Councils.
Statewide Civil Pty Ltd (SWC) are the principle contractors.
According to a notification signed by IWC Mayor Darcy Byrne on 19 Dec 2019, “The purpose of the project is to create wider pedestrian footpaths, construct a bicycle path on the eastern side of the bridge, provide crash barriers for public safety and strengthen the base of the existing road structure…
“It is important that our bridges are built to a high quality, to make sure that you are protected and future repair costs are minimised.”
An additional letter to residents and businesses from Michael Craven, IWC Coordinator, Project Management Services, explained that the works, which began on Mon 13 Jan 2020, “are expected to be completed by October 2020, weather permitting, during which time there will be periodic disruption to traffic and pedestrian access across the bridge. All temporary traffic and pedestrian diversions and closures will be clearly notified and signposted.”
Although IWC Mayor Byrne insists “Safe accessible bridges are a key priority for Council,” the safety of pedestrians diverted round the construction site has been called into question.
Most people living in the immediate vicinity of the works are on the east side of Booth Street, in apartments along Alexandra Drive. The opposite side is mainly industrial, with two storage units and a gymnasium among tenants occupying warehouse buildings.
According to City Hub’s sources, earlier this year, yellow plastic ramps were installed on either side of the road (approximately 10 metres north of the Booth St and Alexandra Drive junction), with Statewide Civil’s signs directing pedestrians to cross Booth St at that point.
However, there were no traffic calming measures, such as temporary traffic lights, alongside the crossing points.
City Hub heard residents’ complaints that the ramps were not properly secured to the kerb and shifted often, especially after rainstorms, creating a major trip hazard for walkers and a significant obstacle to those pushing prams or riding mobility scooters.
An IWC spokesperson confirmed “A temporary crossing point was provided at Alexandra Drive but was removed after Council received numerous complaints. In the interest of safety, pedestrians were directed to use the signalised crossing at Pyrmont Bridge Road.”
With the ramps removed, Statewide Civil installed miss-spelled signs instructing pedestrians to cross at the south end of Booth Street, another 100 metres up the hill at Pyrmont Bridge Rd. Residents of the Alexandra Drive apartments along the east side of Booth St needing to walk to Annandale Shops at the north end of Booth Street must divert in the opposite direction, adding over 200 metres to their journey. 200 metres is a long walk for the elderly, disabled and those with children, to get to their nearest supermarkets and facilities.
But isn’t is possible to install temporary traffic lights mid-way down Booth Street?
According to the IWC, “The timeframe for approval for a pedestrian crossing is at least three-four months and for traffic signals at least six-12 months.” It seems strange that the contractors, Statewide Civil, didn’t consider this in advance when they took on the project.
Meanwhile, regardless of the new instructions to walk up to Pyrmont Bridge Rd, pedestrians are still crossing at the original point where the yellow ramps were placed, including the evenings during rush-hour when traffic is heavy and lighting is limited.
Unfortunately, the street lights surrounding the construction site are not working. There are five in total along that stretch of Booth Street (three adjacent to the bridgeworks), all on the Annandale (west) side of the street where the primary operational footpath is located. (There are no street lights on the east side where the construction is taking place).
This means the area is in near-complete darkness after sunset. Some neighbours told City Hub these street lights have been dark for ‘months’.
AusGrid, which oversees Sydney’s street lighting network, confirmed the five lamps are currently out of service. A company representative told City Hub that the repair of those lights is a complicated fault that requires more than simple wiring – it’s an underground fault – which likely means digging up the road.
However, AusGrid maintenance & repair workers were paused from all on-site repairs around Sydney in April (due to the death of a staff member), and so there’s a big backlog of city-wide electrical wiring that needs sorting, including Booth St.
Because the street lights are the only ones lighting up the entire area, and because they are located on the side of Booth Street that the StateWide Civil construction workers are directing pedestrians to use, doesn’t forcing people to walk in near-darkness not constitute a violation of basic health and safety standards? Trip hazards and other issues of personal safety come to mind.
Can temporary street lamps be installed?
An IWC spokesperson told City Hub that they “understand that temporary lights would require generators to run all night,” which would be a noise problem for those in the immediate vicinity trying to sleep.
Although there are five street lamps not working along the stretch of footpath covering the pedestrian diversion, IWC told City Hub “The construction has affected one street light. According to the Ausgrid website, the next street light along is marked as ‘not working/under ongoing repairs’. Council has been advised by Ausgrid that the light is scheduled for repair on Tuesday 30 June 2020.”
As to the delayed construction work: residents will be disappointed to learn that IWC informed City Hub it won’t be finished by the advertised completion date. “Delays were caused by an unexpected finding of a significant bank of underground services and other engineering challenges. Work is unlikely to be completed by October 2020. A revised completion date will be provided as soon as it is known.”