In the final days of feedback around proposed M1 ramps at Dapto, community members have flocked to a face-to-face drop-in consultation session to have their questions answered and thoughts heard.
The pop-up in Dapto Mall was inundated by passionate community members from the minute it opened and more than 3200 have contributed online, before consultation closes on Monday.
“It’s been a fantastic response but not a surprising one because it’s a really important issue,” Transport for NSW Senior Manager Community and Place Fiona McLauchlan said. “The M1 Princes Motorway is a critical link for people in the Illawarra, particularly between Wollongong and Shellharbour so it’s like a local route as well as being a regional connection.”
“We’re getting a lot of different responses, obviously everyone has their own personal journey, people are travelling on the motorway to get to work, to get to school, to get to doctors’ appointments, so that’s the value of doing this really detailed consultation is that everyone has a different opinion and everyone has different needs.”
Lynne Jeffs has been a Dapto resident for 55 years and is regularly impacted by the lack of accessibility to the key connection.
“Our son lives in Albion Park and because we can’t get on the motorway unless we go back to Berkeley, we’ve got to go through seven sets of traffic lights just to get to Albion Park – to me that’s crazy,” she said.
“And his wife works in Wollongong so if she’s coming home and calling by our place to pick up the kids she’s got to do the same thing.”
But despite recognising the need, Lynne also had concerns about some of the proposed locations for new ramps.
“On Emerson Road there’s too many schools, it will make too much traffic for schoolkids. There’s three schools which use that area; school buses come down, kids come from Dapto High School – it’s just a nightmare for kids and parents.
“Fowlers Road is better but then they would have to take some houses and such there.”
Residents who live closer to Kanahooka such as Andrew and Lyn Griffiths also had questions about the impact the ramps could have on traffic in the area.
“I think all the options could work but our main concern is Kanahooka with congestion, there’s traffic going north and trying to get south as well there on the bridge,” Lyn said.
Despite the consultation having been open since 11 December 2023, this session was the only opportunity for the community to meet with Transport for NSW representatives face-to-face.
“Everything is always on websites or have a look at this survey or information so it’s good to talk to somebody because you get that extra feedback and those answers straight away,” Andrew said.
It also attracted community leaders such as Neighbourhood Forum convenor Ron Cooper, who was passionate about making sure groups and businesses were adequately informed and able to have their say.
“What we’ve got to try and do is disseminate it to the general public,” Ron said. “One of the problems now is that the public have all these thoughts and they all go into a Facebook site that goes into nowhere.
“We don’t just make a decision because it seems good and 20 people in the pub at the Dandaloo said it’s a good idea; we want to know the science.
The studies behind the logistics will play an integral part in the decision process, with much work needing to be factored in.
“It will be a very complex traffic modelling exercise because we will test a whole lot of different scenarios depending on which ramps we’re focusing on and how it works with the existing road environment and traffic volumes, but we know it’s a rapidly growing area so it also means we can test what these ramps will operate like in five years, 10 years, 20 years, based on what we know about the area,” Ms McLauchlan said.
“We’ll also undertake public utility investigations – where’s power, where’s water and what would we impact or have to relocate depending on where we choose to build the ramps.
“And obviously people who live near the motorway probably have some questions and concerns about whether a set of ramps would impact their home and so we’ll do some very early investigations to understand potential footprints.”
The plans are still in very early stages and no determinations have been made, but Ms McLauchlan urged the community to have an open mind about the process and made assurances they would be kept in the loop, even after consultation closed on Monday.
“We then begin the very big and important job of reading every piece of information that we receive,” she said. “We will look at every survey response, we will read every email and our incredible comms team and project team will pull together a consultation summary report which will be released to the community.”
To have your say visit the NSW Government website.