By Jess Baker
Six months of New England Highway safety improvement works between Stanthorpe and Ballandean have not only slowed traffic, but reportedly also sales for businesses located along the road.
Owner of Glen Aplin Service Station Mick Reid said his business has reduced by 50 percent since roadworks commenced at Glen Aplin in October 2020.
“They’re making everybody’s lives a misery,” he said.
“We don’t complain about much out here, but this is now a major inconvenience.”
The Queensland government has committed $19.4 million towards road widening and resurfacing works along the highway between Stanthorpe and Ballandean, to improve driver safety and freight efficiency.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) said works are currently underway at three sections between: Glen Aplin Drive and Miners Lane at Glen Aplin, Calvert Road at Glen Aplin and south of Limerlost Road at Fletcher, and Fletcher and Bents Roads at Ballandean.
The distance between Bents Road at Ballandean to Miners Lane at Glen Aplin is approximately 16 kilometres and would, in ordinary times, take a person 15 minutes to travel by car or motorcycle.
At this stage of the roadworks, with single-lane closures and traffic control signals at four locations between Stanthorpe and Ballandean, it takes vehicles at least half an hour. Businesses in the thick of the roadworks said the traffic lights add an extra 40 minutes to their trips to town.
“There are two sets (of traffic control signals) north of Glen Aplin, one set south of Glen Aplin, and one set at Ballandean,” said the TMR spokesperson.
“Additional closures and lights are periodically installed during the day under manual control for the works.
“The traffic signals have a typical cycle time of 60 seconds green, five seconds amber and 120 seconds red, with the phasing of the lights controlled to ensure traffic flow.”
The TMR spokesperson said vehicle activated and manual control lights are in place during the day and vehicle activated and automatically timed lights are used after hours.
“We monitor delays throughout the entire site and test to ensure they stay below 10 minutes,” said the spokesperson.
“Unfortunately, occasional disruptions are unavoidable, due to vehicle breakdowns, faults or extreme weather.”
Mr Reid of Glen Aplin Service Station said there is a set of traffic control lights at the section of road in front of his business, where long lines of cars are made to wait for up to 20 minutes at a time.
“This has been going on for months. At one stage, they had six sets of lights through the roadworks here,” he said.
Owner of Glen Aplin antique store Yestergear, Doctor Tania Nader, said traffic lights were recently installed in the middle of her business’ driveway, with no warning and no consultation.
After speaking with several construction workers at the site, she said the lights were removed and reinstalled 100 metres down the road, which changed very little.
“We’re seeing 10 percent of the business we normally see,” said Dr Nader.
“Our business relies on tourists, but they don’t know how to get out of this mess.”
Dr Nader said long lines of vehicles parked at the traffic lights near her business block her from entering and exiting her own driveway for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
“It’s been many months of this now. We’re exhausted and we’re losing money every day,” she said.
“In the long run, we might have a better road, but consultation along the way would have been appreciated.”
Glen Aplin Autos, located at Glen Aplin Drive, also claim to have seen “a massive drop” in turnover due to the roadworks.
The business claims that its intersection at Glen Aplin Drive has been closed since November, making it difficult for the business to take on new customers.
“It’s definitely affected our business,” said a Glen Aplin Autos representative who asked not to be named.
“There’s been a noticeable drop in business. Covid (2020) excluded, this is definitely the worst (year).”
A number of Glen Aplin residents and businesses have said the safety improvements, which are being delivered as eight work packages, are often left unfinished with lengths of road in poorer condition now than they were pre-construction.
Mr Reid of Glen Aplin Service Station said packages have lain dormant for months and, even when completed, are not safe to travel on.
“People are now taking the back roads to town,” he said.
“The (upgraded) roads should be able to handle rain, a bit of water and trucks, but they can’t. Someone’s going to get killed soon.”
A TMR spokesperson said wet weather in December and January, and again in March and April, has resulted in some areas needing to be “reworked”. The program has been delayed as a result, with works now expected to be completed by the end of June 2021.
Three of eight packages of improvement works between Stanthorpe and Ballandean are not yet funded for construction.
“We consult with relevant residents and business owners on the New England Highway who are impacted by the roadworks, including about the placement of traffic lights,” said the spokesperson.
“We apologise for the inconvenience and endeavour to minimise impacts from roadworks for motorists, residents and local businesses where possible.”
The spokesperson said all enquiries, including reports about safety concerns and incidents, are investigated thoroughly, responded to and remedial action taken where necessary.