LETTER TO THE EDITOR
TRAFFIC OR TUMBLEWEEDS
Before campaigning for a Braidwood bypass, it makes sense to look at the overall impact such a move is likely to have on the long term economic viability of our town.
It was reported in the Braidwood Times (re the QPRC's March 15 community consultation on the beautification of Braidwood's CBD) that there was strong support for a bypass.
The main reasons for that support were ‘safety’ and ‘a more functional streetscape’ (whatever that may mean). They might be understandable and worthwhile goals, but they are a rather narrow set of objectives on which to base a call for something as major as a town bypass.
Street beautification is one thing; securing the economic viability of our town is another.
Ask Canberra motorists what they'd like and I'm sure a large to very large majority would like to shorten their drive time to the coast by speeding past Braidwood at 100km/h, avoiding the 'bottleneck' that repeated RMS studies have shown is the main word highway users use to describe our town.
Build a Macca’s and/or a service station on the bypass and an even larger number of travellers will say ‘what a great idea’.
And what would be the economic impact of that on the town? It would have to reduce the takings of our cafes, restaurants, the bakery, gift shops, service stations et al.
The only question is how large that decrease in turnover would be.
It may even weaken the case for Braidwood continuing to have the hospital/ambulance station; but those social issues are a separate matter: back to economics.
Even those businesses that don't see themselves ‘at risk’ from a bypass might, in time, find they underestimated the benefits of high traffic flow.
They might be in for a rude shock. Are these pro-bypass businesses different or unique enough to attract sufficient traveller numbers off the the highway on a regular basis? Perhaps yes (some will), more probably no, a lot won't: they'll opt to reach their real destination, the coast, more quickly.
A bypass can't do anything but shrink our town economy unless Braidwood becomes an end destination in its own right.
It's not such an end destination at the moment. For most travellers it is a pit-stop and it will remain so unless we build better tourist products.
Currently over two million car trips occur on Wallace Street each year. How can cutting that flow by half or three-quarters, or more, boost the local economy? It can't. Our aim should be to take advantage of this large traffic flow, not reduce it.
Where bypasses have succeeded (Mittagong-Bowral-Berrima), those towns have large resident populations (critical mass) and a deep and varied array of dedicated tourist attractions to make them an end-destination for a wide range of travellers.
Braidwood has neither of these essentials in sufficient quantity.
So, before you vote for quieter streets and more freely available parking spaces, think twice. You might just get them. Then you can watch as a number of businesses wither and die, leaving a near-tumbleweed empty Main Street. That's not beautification.