Is this Australia’s worst roundabout?
IT'S one of Sydney's prime tourist spots with concerts and events occurring constantly, luring thousands every week. Not to mention a range of attractions, sporting facilities and 430 hectares of parklands.
But good luck trying to get there.
Eighteen years after snatching international headlines by hosting the Olympics, Sydney Olympic Park has been earmarked for a major redesign but there's one huge problem the government is struggling to solve: The notorious roundabout at Australia Avenue and Underwood Road, and its surrounds.
The intersection, which has garnered quite a reputation for being Australia's most hated over the years, is a particularly gnarly mix of heavy traffic, confusion and chaos.
The multi-lane nightmare even scored the dubious title of the state's most complained about roundabout in 2015, according to Transport for NSW records.
And just a few hundred metres away from the roundabout is a spot that's been named the worst merging location for accidents in NSW - the intersection of Homebush Bay Drive and the M4 Motorway. That's according to data from NSW insurance claims in 2016.
It's a location that frequently experiences traffic congestion flowing on from the roundabout, making it a "disaster" spot when trying to change lanes.
NRMA research head Robert McDonald told the Daily Telegraph: "The Homebush Bay Drive intersection with the M4 is one of the busiest routes heading west.
"It also has to contend with traffic from Flemington Markets, a major factory outlet (DFO) and Olympic Park."
The whole area is simply a traffic nightmare. Check out the image below.
And this actually shows an improvement to the area, completed last year. It's a new "g-loop", an access ramp that funnels traffic that had previously built up while waiting to turn right from Homebush Bay Drive on to the M4, off to the left and around without the need to stop at traffic lights.
As a local, I know only too well the pain of those attempting to access the area. I avoid it unless there is no other alternative.
This busy area is also the main access route for the nearby suburbs of Wentworth Point and Newington, so there is a lot of local traffic to contend with even when no events are on at Olympic Park.
While the g-loop seems to be a genius idea that will improve traffic flow to an extent, it does spark confusion with some motorists not realising they have to be in the left lane of the multi-lane road in order to turn right. Some realise this way too late and end up cutting across the lanes to make the turn-off.
When it comes to the roundabout, you often sit in a queue for a significant amount of time and once you finally get a chance to proceed, you're met with a constant flow of traffic already in it during peak times. Some motorists end up taking risks to finally squeeze into the roundabout, especially as they've used up all their patience just getting to the front of the line.
Plus there is some confusion over which lane goes where, with some drivers missing - or simply ignoring - the road markings and going straight up Australia Avenue when they should have been turning left on to Homebush Bay Drive, for example.
Also, when turning left off Homebush Bay Drive on to Australia Avenue, you are unable to turn right shortly after into the popular Bicentennial Park without having to cross multiple lanes of traffic in a short space of time, or having to drive around the world in order to loop back to the entrance.
It's a recipe for disaster.
Bronwyn Evans, the President of the local Wentworth Point Community Central has been campaigning for improvements to the roundabout for years and knows all too well the pain motorists are feeling.
She said that despite recent changes including new sensors being installed to help improve traffic flow from Homebush Bay Drive, it's still a nightmare.
"The roundabout continues to be problematic," Ms Evans said. "Yesterday I was caught in afternoon peak hour traffic and couldn't get into the roundabout slipway for some time because of the southbound traffic along Homebush Bay Drive.
"Once I got through that, it was a long wait to get to the roundabout itself and then the drama of fighting to get into it begins! It's a case of 'take a deep breath and plunge in!'. Generally, Homebush Bay Drive southbound, Australia Avenue eastbound and Underwood Road westbound (which becomes Australia Avenue) are clogged."
That's on an ordinary day - try battling it on a weekend.
"Of a weekend the DFO traffic causes other issues, particularly with Centenary Drive northbound (which become Homebush Bay Drive) traffic entering the roundabout to go to DFO and clogging the roundabout so others can't get in.
"From my perspective, I can't see any improvement recently from Homebush Bay Drive access, and I use that every afternoon on my way home from work. We still have to queue most nights to get into the slipway."
Bronwyn previously started a petition to call for action on the roundabout, which garnered 1215 signatures. She begged: "Find a solution to the traffic nightmare that unfolds through this roundabout on a regular basis, There is just too much traffic for this to remain a roundabout - a better solution is required now."
Locals voiced their agreement that the awful roundabout needs to go.
Mamello wrote: "I drive through that roundabout almost every day and it's always a challenge.
Meanwhile, Samantha said: "I have to factor in an hour more just to get groceries at Rhodes because of DFO."
SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Evans said that a combination of the following fixes would make a difference:
• An M4 westbound exit at Hill Rd - to take Sydney Olympic Park and Wentworth Point traffic out of the roundabout.
• Traffic lights in the roundabout to give everyone an opportunity to enter.
• Move the DFO parking access elsewhere.
• A flyover to get traffic out of the roundabout.
"There was a 2007/8 traffic study done by SOAP (Sydney Olympic Park Authority) and this details the 'fail' that the roundabout would be with the original planned development," Evans said. "That development now exceeds the original plan by several times.
" ... Will the state government fix it? Maybe, but I am not holding my breath. They continue to treat us with disdain."
WHAT ABOUT THE MASTERPLAN?
Under the Sydney Olympic Park Master Plan 2030 review, which is currently in the process of community consultation, the area is set for a new metro line as well as light rail, with the government promising to improve local intersections and ease congestion.
However, difficulties in solving road access issues such as the Australia Avenue roundabout are believed to be causing a delay in finalising the masterplan.
A Roads and Maritime Services spokeswoman told the SMH that it is continuing to work with the Department of Planning and Environment for the review.
"A strategic feasibility study for the Sydney Olympic Peninsula is being carried out to investigate potential road network improvements to support future residential and commercial growth," the spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, a $140 million plan for an off-ramp from the nearby WestConnex to Hill Road, which is next to Olympic Park, promised in 2015 has still not been completed.
The uncertainty about what's happening regarding redevelopment in the area is hurting local businesses, according to Labor leader Luke Foley, whose electorate encompasses Olympic Park,
"Private sector investment isn't forthcoming because there's no certainty about what will be allowed in these suburbs," Mr Foley said.
News.com.au has contacted SOPA for comment.