Naracoorte roundabouts weren't always a hit

THEY have been lauded as the cut price solution to the State's most notorious intersections, but not too long ago they weren't so highly regarded.

The roundabouts which join Smith and Ormerod Sts with McRae St were last week revealed as the inspiration behind the dual roundabouts at Adelaide's Britannia Roundabout east of the CBD,

The roundabouts which join Smith and Ormerod Sts with McRae St were last week revealed as the inspiration behind the dual roundabouts at Adelaide's Britannia Roundabout east of the CBD,

The roundabouts which join Smith and Ormerod Sts with McRae St were last week revealed as the inspiration behind the dual roundabouts at Adelaide's Britannia Roundabout east of the CBD, which became operational six months ago.

But Naracoorte Lucindale Council mayor Erika Vickery, who was a councillor back in 2006 when the roundabouts in Naracoorte started being built, remembers quite a bit of controversy at the time.

"It was a bit contentious," she told the Herald. "The Smith and McRae St intersection only had stop signs.

"There were accidents occurring quite often."

People suggested to the council that traffic lights needed to be put in, which Mrs Vickery said she thought seemed like a reasonable idea.

The issue had a lot of public interest and resulted in the council, then under the guidance of mayor Richard Bourne and chief executive officer Dennis Hovenden, hiring a traffic consultant.

In a fortnight span the consultant looked at traffic through the intersection - counting the vehicles as well as noting what times were the busiest - before presenting his findings at a public meeting.

"He hadn't presented (his findings) to council beforehand," Mrs Vickery recalled.

"It sort of came out of left field for everyone that he suggested roundabouts as the way to go forward."

And so it was eventually decided to put in roundabouts instead of the traffic lights which some sections of the community were dead-set on having installed.

But to do that the war memorial, which until then was on Smith St in front of the NAB building, had to be moved - another source of controversy.

"There were some real diehards (against moving the memorial)," Mrs Vickery said. "They certainly weren't in the majority but they were strong about their thoughts."

Mrs Vickery said the council pushed on and relocated the memorial to the town squares despite this.

"The thing is it's a memorial, it wasn't a grave," she said.

"Really the feedback we have had has been nothing but positive."

The designing of the roundabouts was done in conjunction with the State Government, 

The government provided $850,000 in Black Spot Funding for the main roundabout on Smith/McRae Sts while the council would pay Transport SA $175,000 for the structure on Ormerod and McRae Sts and the roundabout on Robertson and McRae Sts would cost the council $50,000 with another $100,000 coming from Black Spot funding.

Even as work started the community was still uneasy about the roundabouts being favoured over traffic lights.

"Once we made the decision we stuck with it," Mrs Vickery said. "(But) I think people were finding it difficult to envisage."

Mrs Vickery said the trucking industry was very concerned about the safety of negotiating the roundabouts - and there were some close shaves and minor damage to the buildings on the corners near the roundabout as examples.

"There were some concern that big trucks wouldn't be able to get around them." she said.

"But that's why the trucks are designed to go on the apron (around the Smith St roundabout)."

Early in the roundabout's operation a truck collected a sign overhanging the old First National Real Estate building, and Attwood's Shoe Store has had its share of scrapes.

But Mrs Vickery believes there is a lot less damage than there would be without the roundabout.

"When you look back on it I think it was the right decision," she said.

"It has certainly decreased the amount of accidents, and the accidents that have happened have been minor in nature (due to people slowing down as they enter roundabouts)."

Now that Naracoorte has popped up in the State media with the link to the new Britannia Roundabout, Mrs Vickery said it wass an honour for the town.

And she gave the new Britannia Roundabout her seal of approval.

"It's a whole lot easier to get through now," she said.

Latest traffic figures from the Department of Transport show that the traffic volumes at the Naracoorte-inspired structure are up by more than 10 per cent at peak times but crash rates have fallen by more than a third.

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