Consultation vow over Caves Road

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Main Roads WA has pledged to consult affected residents despite an outcry about its roadworks planned for Caves Road.
Camera IconMain Roads WA has pledged to consult affected residents despite an outcry about its roadworks planned for Caves Road. Credit: Therese Colman.

Main Roads WA has pledged to consult affected residents despite an outcry about its roadworks planned for Caves Road.

Tourism operators and community groups raised the alarm after the Times reported on the plan in February, which will consider 10m of clearing along sections of the scenic drive between Yallingup and Margaret River’s Rainbow Cave Road.

There are also plans for a major roundabout at the dogleg intersection of Wallcliffe and Caves roads, which is not yet funded.

A Main Roads spokeswoman said reduced speed limits — demanded by residents as an alternative — could not address the department’s safety concerns about the popular drive.

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“Experience has shown that the imposition of artificially low speed limits has little impact on the actual operating speed chosen by the majority of motorists, unless constant police enforcement is provided,” Main Roads said. “As such, the existing speed limit is considered to be appropriate.”

Details on specific changes were still under development.

“A key aim of this project is to increase the width of bitumen seal along the road by sealing shoulders, where possible to minimise the risk of serious crashes,” Main Roads said.

Margaret River Coastal Residents Association president Adrian Wilson said his group was “strongly opposed” to any widening of Caves Road.

“I would urge the community to express strong opposition to this ill-conceived, expensive and unnecessary road-widening proposal for Caves Road,” he said.

“Main Roads are wrong when they say drivers will ignore a speed limit and simply drive to the road conditions.

“My experience is that on Caves Road, drivers will drive to the speed limit, which in the case of the 90km/h sections, is too high for the road.” Although some shoulder works and safer exits were welcomed, Mr Wilson said visiting drivers were drawn by the route’s scenic appeal — a view echoed previously by residents Jim Matan and Will Berliner.

“It is primarily a tourist road which has great beauty and, if driven at the correct speed, is safe,” Mr Wilson said.

But the group’s previous calls to reduce speed limits, including on Mitchell Drive to Gnarabup, failed to win Main Roads support. “If the road is widened, then, according to Main Roads logic, traffic will simply speed up, making conditions more dangerous and reducing amenity for all,” Mr Wilson said.

Main Roads said a consultation group would be established mid-year but a decision to advertise for public comment had not yet been made.

“Key constraints for the project will be the need to minimise environmental and aesthetic impacts to ensure that the road remains an iconic attraction for tourists travelling through the area,” Main Roads said.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River infrastructure director Markus Botte expected consultation with residents.

“This group, once formed, will provide an opportunity for the Shire and for community members to, first, be informed about the nature of the problem and, second, provide input into possible solutions, including retaining the scenic nature of the road, shoulder widening, vegetation clearing, speed limits,” he said.

Mr Wilson said Shire residents should determine the scope of the works, with Bussell Highway the funded route for fast travel to and from the region.

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