Queues form as Cambridge drivers try to avoid long waits

'Rat-runners' add to traffic jam woes

JEREMY SMITH
Last updated 14:30 26/02/2014

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Cambridge woman Suzanne Kirk can smell, and most days even see, a rat outside her driveway - one that's sometimes dozens of cars long.

It's a term being used to describe drivers using the Addison St resident's road as a "rat-run", a short-cut to avoid queues on Shakespeare St caused by maintenance work on Victoria Bridge.

Many elect to enter the Ferguson Bridge traffic flow from Addison St as it is the closest point to the State Highway 1 roundabout.

But Mrs Kirk, who was recently appointed as a Neighbourhood Support Cambridge Addison St-Bronte Place group leader, said that doesn't help her and other genuine Addison St residents.

"In some ways, we are even more disadvantaged than those going straight down Shakespeare St in the first place. We have to queue just to get into the queue."

Mrs Kirk said cars were at times backed up 200 metres along Addison St.

"We noticed the trend of people looking for shortcuts quite soon after the bridge closed; people look to take shortcuts because they want to keep moving."

She's under no illusion that Addison St is just one of the roads being used as a "rat-run", but the trend has changed her quiet residential street into a traffic thoroughfare.

"It's quite devastating really, pretty invasive, and I'm sure there are other residents feeling that too. It's gone from just a few cars, residents who are either coming home or leaving home, and who have a right to be here, to being stuck in a queue in my own street."

Speed was another of her concerns.

"Some of the cars coming down here are not sticking to 50kmh. What if there were young children out here?"

Mrs Kirk, who has lived in Addison St for four years, said she didn't notice rat-running when the bridge closed in 2011, and said there would need to be "buy-in from everybody" for it to be curbed.

BUTTING IN BUMPS UP WAITING TIME

Data from Waipa District Council suggests that rat-runners - those who push in - are saving time. But in doing do, they are adding a lot of waiting time for other people diligently waiting in the queue.

The information stated that waiting time in the Shakespeare St queue would be significantly reduced if traffic from several of the current rat-run roads - which include Addison St - was to be eliminated if drivers did not jump the Shakespeare St queue in the first place.

Estimates by roading staff are that current peak waiting times at the height of business in the Shakespeare St queue can be up to 26 minutes and even longer on some days.

But, if "stop start" rat-running was eliminated, the maximum wait time would be reduced by six to 10 minutes, the data showed.

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Council roading staff monitored Shakespeare St and the "rat-run" roads on regular occasions last week. About 8am last Tuesday, more than 70 vehicles were seen emerging from Addison St, and between 7.50am and 8.30am, about 40 per cent of the total Shakespeare St queue was thought to be made up of rat-runners.

Council staff said rat-running during the Victoria Bridge maintenance project was not entirely unexpected because some behaviours could be predicted, but it does not support the practice and has been monitoring the situation as concerns increase.

Roading staff and police are also worried about safety, with residents reporting vehicles speeding in their streets. A number of speeding tickets have been issued by police.

While staff said they understood people wanted to save time and shorten their journey, rat-running was making a trying situation worse.

Rat-runners also caused the queue to stop and start as people let cars in, rather than moving steadily. Council staff said they also feel for genuine residents of roads on which rat-running was occurring because it slowed their ability to get onto Shakespeare St.

The council also urges cyclists using the high-level bridge to dismount and walk their bikes across the bridge - not ride them across.

BRIDGING THE GAP

Repairs on Cambridge's Victoria Bridge are running to schedule, although much of the work is hidden behind safety fencing and screening. Over the past week, contractors have grit-blasted sections that need strengthening. This has required the drilling of 590 holes on each side of the bridge to allow the fastening of steel angles on to the original beam that goes across the arch section of the bridge. Replacing the footpath with a new structure is being done at the same time. 

- Waikato

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