December 11 2022 - January 14, 2023: Issue 566


Streets as shared spaces work to pause in time for Thursday night Xmas Shopping

By Miranda Korzy, Pittwater Greens Councillor

The section of Old Barrenjoey Road, Avalon Beach after the asphalt had been installed and prior to milling works for drainage taking place.

Northern Beaches Council staff have promised that road works related to the Avalon “Streets as shared spaces” project will pause in time for Avalon’s special Christmas late night shopping on Thursday.

Pittwater Councillors Rory Amon (Liberal), Michael Gencher (Your Northern Beaches) and I met with members of the Avalon Business Chamber on Thursday morning to hear about the impact of the road works on local shops and cafes.

Many businesses are concerned about the noise of heavy machinery, delays at the intersection of Old Barrenjoey Road and Avalon Parade, as well as relocation of bus stops. The problems are a culmination of misfortunes following nearly three years of Covid, the closure of Woolworths plus the council carpark during the year, and work by Sydney Water in recent weeks.  

However, I’ve spoken to most shop owners or managers near the intersection this week, and a number are positive about the trial and think it will improve the village, some are relieved to see the change of position for the intersections (where they’ve seen too many close calls), and I’ve even had one business owner tell me that although their takings were down in the first week of the road works, since then business has been booming!     

Frustrations for residents and shop owners alike were exacerbated when contractors laid bitumen incorrectly last Sunday night on the new shared zone on Old Barrenjoey Road. The surface was meant to have a 2 degree slope from both sides towards the centre of the road, designed to drain rainwater into the stormwater pipes below Avalon Parade, at the north-west corner of Old Barrenjoey Rd. However, the bitumen was spread so that the whole road surface was flat - creating a potential flood hazard and alarming nearby shops.

Pittwater councillors then met with council staff on Thursday afternoon to nut out the best way forward. The following points were made:

  • Councillors passed on the business chamber’s concerns as well as describing the community’s frustrations and anger about the timing of the project, with Avalon’s influx of holiday visitors already arriving. 
  • The dangers of the positioning of the pedestrian island on Barrenjoey Rd in front of the new bus stop were discussed and that it appeared to be encouraging kids to cross the road dangerously. Today I noticed that the bus stop has now been moved in front of the island. 
  • We also mentioned that residents using walking frames were finding the new ramps onto Avalon Pde and Old Barrenjoey Rd too steep - and staff have said that they’ll see what they can do to fix them.
  • The schedule of work to December 13 includes removing the top layer of bitumen where it is too thick with an asphalt milling machine, so that the road has the planned profile. The three trucks were to work through Thursday night removing loads of bitumen to Rose Hill, where it is recycled. Another layer of coloured bitumen will then be laid on top of this milled surface, and a pattern stamped into it like paving. (The colour for the top layer of bitumen and pattern were previously chosen by Avalon Preservation Association.) The final pre-Christmas work will include installing chairs, tables, benches and potted plants in the pedestrian zone, along with bollards to define the roadway for vehicles.
  • Staff pointed out that it won’t be until the shared zone is finished that businesses will really see the benefits, especially cafes and restaurants, of the wider footpaths and new chairs and tables.
  • Councillors agreed that we could not leave Old Barrenjoey in the state it was in, given the possibility that it could cause flooding to businesses. Also that as long as nightwork really did not interfere with shops or cafes and restaurants, it would be better to finish the roadwork and install the planned furniture, if it could be done by December 13. 
  • On Avalon Pde, further seating outside cafes and restaurants will be created next year when work recommences, by moving the footpath out another lane’s width.
  • Staff agreed to improve communications with all concerned - the community, businesses and councillors. 
  • Trial evaluation will be carried out both on an ongoing basis and at its conclusion. Data from before the trial for traffic volumes and waiting times at intersections will be compared with later records. Staff plan to liaise with the community and businesses on an ongoing basis and later plan to hold a feedback forum.
  • We asked staff to keep work within the 10pm to 5am time frame that we had previously been told was planned, although work on Thursday night commences earlier to try and finish the milling in one night.
  • Staff said Sydney Water had told them that it would not carry out any further work in the village until the second half of next year.

The outcome: 

Work recommenced on Thursday night, with the milling machine breaking down the surface of the road near the library and starting on the southern side. This continued on Friday, and no work was planned for Saturday. 

Milling Machine

The workers explained how the milling machine works - there's a big drum, two metres wide underneath. They fit a band of metal teeth over it, that then gouges into the road surface. The long arm out the front directs the dug up asphalt  into the truck.

Close up: - you can here there's a little ledge that sticks out the side - they use that to set the level. Then they program how deep they want to go:

The shoulder for the pedestrian crossing outside Ecodownunder was completed. 

Fixing the pedestrian shoulder

Also on Thursday night, staff were surprised to see Sydney Water out digging holes in the road.

Sydney Water joining in on the action

Staff will give councillors another update on Monday night at our normal briefing before the Tuesday night council meeting.