TRAFFIC DEBATE: The Byron Bay bus and coach stop is a focus of the mini-bypass proposal.
TRAFFIC DEBATE: The Byron Bay bus and coach stop is a focus of the mini-bypass proposal.

Traffic a thorny issue

ONE of the thorny issues Byron Shire councillors will face now they are back from their mid-year break is traffic management at Byron Bay.

It is a matter that has been tossed around for years, the subject of numerous costly reports and with little to show for it.

Aimed at unclogging CBD traffic jams and alleviating queues along Ewingsdale Rd, the debate, over the years, has moved from the so-called Butler St bypass to a mini-bypass, utilising the emergency rail crossing at the southern end of the railway station.

But before going on their break, councillors, rather than voting to push ahead with design and cost estimates for the mini-bypass, decided to hold a public meeting to discuss all traffic management options for Byron Bay.

They included both the full bypass and mini-bypass, paid parking, park and ride, bus parking and transit station options and bicycle use.

No date has been set for that meeting, but before it is held, residents will be invited to submit questions and peak Byron Bay organisations will be invited to make presentations.

A key issue in the whole debate is what to do about the town’s bus and interstate coach stop in the heart of Jonson St.

While it is hard to get an exact figure, the site has to cope with thousands of bus and coach movements every year often leading to chaotic traffic conditions in surrounding streets.

Like everything else in this debate, the bus and coach issue and where to best put them is not new.

While going through some old files last week, I found a cutting of a story I wrote for The Northern Star in April 1988.

The headline read “Coaches causing traffic headache”. The sub-head read “Byron dilemma over terminal siting”.

Twenty-three years ago, but it has a familiar ring.

The story went on to say that Byron Council recognised there was a problem and had been looking at solutions.

Its preferred option then was to develop State Rail Authority land on the western side of the station on Butler St to make a combined transport terminal.

That, of course, never happened. Instead, the bus stop was moved to its present location outside the Byron Visitor Centre where it is not unusual to see up to six buses and coaches battling for space, causing major chaos at the Jonson and Marvell Sts intersection.

Council staff has recommended investigating moving the bus stop to the new sports complex being built in Ewingsdale Rd, Tennyson St, nearby State Rail land, or on, or near Butler Street Reserve.

For Cr Basil Cameron, the chairman of the council’s Tourism Advisory Committee, moving the stop any distance from the town centre would only give people a “green light” to drive their cars.

Which is why he would like to see the adjacent State Rail land utilised.

He said pushing ahead with the mini-bypass option would be a “big mistake”.

“I think it would damage the central precinct of the town,” he said.

“It’s just going to impact on what is the heritage part of town.”

The council’s executive manager of community infrastructure, Phil Holloway, said the public meeting would be held in coming months.

Mr Holloway said the Jonson St bus stop had been discussed at the council’s Local Traffic Committee.

“Any consideration of relocation of the stop would require that it provide easy access for coaches, along with being user-friendly for visitors and bus passengers,” he said.

Basil Cameron,

Byron Shire councillor: 

It’s just going to impact on what is the heritage part of town.

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