ELECTRONIC variable speed limit signs triggered by entering and turning vehicles will be installed at the South Gippsland Highway and Fish Creek-Foster Road intersection at Foster, to slow traffic on the highway from 100 to 70 kilometres per hour.
Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) has identified the notorious Foster T-junction as being one of more than 200 high-speed, high-risk intersections in country areas of the State to be fitted with Side Road Activated Speed (SRAS) technology.
The Intersections in the $25 million program have been selected based on a range of data, including crash history and traffic volumes, intersection geometry, poor visibility and sight distance issues, and potential for future crashes.
Between 2012 and 2019, there have been five officially reported crashes on the South Gippsland Highway at the intersection with Fish Creek-Foster Road, four of which involved drivers failing to give way. No lives were lost in these crashes.
The SRAS signs will be activated when a motorist travelling on a side road (in this case, the Fish Creek-Foster Road, known locally as Toora Road) approaches a main road with a 100 km/h speed limit (the South Gippsland Highway).
Sensors detecting any approaching vehicles will prompt the electronic signs placed along the highway on either side of the intersection to display a temporarily reduced 70 km/h limit, alerting drivers on the main road to slow down to a safer speed.
The SRAS signs will also be activated by vehicles waiting to turn right from the South Gippsland Highway into Fish Creek-Foster Road.
The reduced speed limit will remain on display until there are no more vehicles on the side road waiting to enter the highway, nor any vehicles endeavouring to turn right into the side road from the highway.
Preliminary works, to place additional flexible safety barriers along the South Gippsland Highway to the east and west of the intersection to protect the new SRAS signs, were completed in July 2021.
The speed detection equipment and the electronic signs themselves will be installed in September, weather permitting
The safety improvement project at the South Gippsland Highway and Fish Creek-Foster Road intersection has been costed at $490,000.
Department of Transport Gippsland Region Director Sara Rhodes-Ward said “we are improving road safety at the intersection of the South Gippsland Highway and Fish Creek-Foster Road to reduce serious injury and save lives.
“We know that almost half of all lives lost on Victorian roads happen on 100 and 110 km/h rural roads, with intersections an area of particular risk,” she said.
“That is why we are targeting more than 200 intersections for safety improvements under the Victorian Government’s high-speed, high-risk intersections program across regional Victoria.”
An RRV spokesman said upgraded signage will be installed and line-marking will be refreshed as part of the Foster intersection’s improved safety treatment.
“The SRAS signs will increase safety at some of Victoria’s highest risk intersections, including the South Gippsland Highway and Fish Creek-Foster Road,” the spokesman said.
“The signs instruct drivers on the main road to slow down when there are vehicles on the side road or waiting to turn right, giving the drivers on the main road more time to react if the traffic on the side road or the turning vehicles fail to give way.
“Reduced speeds on the main road give drivers on side roads more time to assess gaps in traffic so they can enter the main road safely,” he said.
“The electronic signs also let drivers on main roads know they are nearing an intersection so they can prepare for any merging or turning vehicles.”
The RRV spokesman said that the SRAS signs will “significantly reduce the severity of crashes due to the reduced speed limit when traffic is merging from side roads.
“Collisions at intersections have been the cause of an average of 30 per cent of deaths and 42 per cent of serious injuries on Victorian roads over the past five years from January 2015 to December 2019.
“Of these crashes, an average of 54 per cent of fatalities and serious injuries are caused by side impact crashes,” he said.
“There is a high risk of crashing at an intersection due to the large numbers of conflicting movements between vehicles making turns and crossing paths.”
The RRV cites a similar lower speed program in New Zealand, which has “recorded a reduced number of serious and fatal crashes at 89 per cent since 2012.”
Three other intersections in Gippsland are to be fitted with SRAS signs, too; Bass Highway and Soldiers Road at Bass, Traralgon-Churchill Road and Church Road at Hazelwood North, and the Princes Highway East and Bonang Road at Orbost.
While Fish Creek-Foster Road is shown on maps, the road is also familiar to Corner Inlet district residents by a series of local names; for example, the section that actually meets the highway at Foster is called Toora Road.
The road becomes Main Street from its junction with Nelson Street to the Foster roundabout via the Exchange Hotel corner, and changes to McDonald Street between the roundabout and the Pioneer Street turn-off.
Past Pioneer Street, it’s known as Hoddle Road as far as the Foster Cemetery, and then south-west from there as the Fish Creek-Foster Road.