As one begins to descend the Midland Highway into Launceston the beauty of the town's historical facade with picturesque rolling hill background and riverside locale is revealed.
Through any eyes the vista is picturesque, but the dreamy view can be shattered in a second by the sudden shock of traffic banked up the Southern Outlet.
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The Midland Highway itself if the major arterial road from Hobart, into Launceston, and through to other northern regions. It is also one of the oldest thoroughfares in the country with its etchings on the earth stretching back as far at the early 1820s. When it was finalised in 1850 visitors praised the stretch of road for its usability.
Around 1985 works started on what we know today as the Southern Outlet to bring it up to a standard relevant to the growing population of Launceston.
While the state of the Highway is markedly different to that which it was in in the 19th century, the road remains the most important in Tasmania. As far back as 2014 a 10-year plan was commenced to get the stretch of road a minimum three out of five star rating.
However, crashes remained a problem, particularly on the Southern Outlet.
After 87 crashes were recorded on the two-and-a-half kilometre stretch of road between 2016 and the end of 2019, including one serious and one fatal crash, the speed limit was lowered from 110 km/h to 90 km/h.
Since then, according to the state growth department, four crashes have occurred along that stretch.
A spokesperson for the department said not enough time had passed for there to have been an evaluation of the success of the limit reduction
"Speed limit reductions can be expected to reduce the number and severity of crashes, but it is too soon to comment on the difference it has made at this specific location," they said.
When extending the section of road a further 1500 metres to the Kings Meadows connector, at least six crashes have occurred on the Highway coming into Launceston since April 15.
Of the information available for four of those incidents, the average time it took for the incident site to be cleared by police was 90 minutes.
Last week, two crashes in two days wreaked havoc across the traffic network causing delays of around 40 minutes for commuters heading into the CBD and using Southern Outlet.
As it stands, Tasmania Police suggest commuters "avoid the area if possible" or, depending on the location of the crash, to divert via the Prospect Vale slip lane and onto the Kings Meadows diverter road.
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West Launceston woman Angela Bransden said she was convinced the speed limit reduction had caused congestion on the Outlet and extending down Bathurst street into the CBD.
On any given day, the buildup of traffic along this stretch of road at peak times can stretch from the start of the Southern Outlet down Goderich street and the East Tamar Highway at Invermay some five kilometres from the start of the Outlet.
"Since the speed limit changed it definitely gets more backlogged even going through the Kings Meadows intersection," Ms Bransden said.
Since the speed limit changed it definitely gets more backlogged even going through the Kings Meadows intersection.Angela Bransden from West Launceston
Ms Bransden said she noticed the congestion spread across the network, not just in the immediate vicinity of the Southern Outlet and Bathurst street. "It just adds to driver frustration on the roads," she said.
At the beginning of 2020 state growth, along with the federal government and Launceston council began to roll out a targeted CCTV system on major Launceston thoroughfares to monitor traffic congestion. The system then allowed signals to be controlled remotely.
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"A network of CCTV cameras were installed around the city last year, including on the Southern Outlet, which allows for traffic monitoring from the department's Traffic Management Centre," a department spokesperson said.
"This coverage allows for a quicker response when crashes occur, helping traffic flows to return to normal in a shorter time.
"The new CCTV cameras mean we are now better able to identify incidents as they happen and optimise traffic signal operation to assist, providing the incident is within the traffic signal network."
The signal network extends across 15 cameras around the city at the Southern Outlet, Invermay road, parts of the West Tamar Highway, Goderich street at Invermay and Wellington and Bathurst streets.
The Wellington and Bathurst streets cameras see other key routes through the CBD including Brisbane and York streets. Still, asking a number of road users about their experience with the Southern Outlet and many parts of the Launceston road network is often met with a sigh or roll of the eyes.
James from East Launceston, who preferred not to have his surname printed, said the fact Launceston had a comparatively negligible population but still experienced significant traffic issues and delays was "nuts".
It's only going to get worse.James from South Launceston
He said he often considered avoiding Bathurst and Wellington streets, along with the Southern Outlet, when he commuted into and out of the CBD.
For John Powell who uses the Outlet almost daily said the traffic buildup on the Southern Outlet was an acute issue he had experienced for a number of years.
"There is a buildup as you come down the hill and into the Howick street turn off," he said.
He said whenever the buildup was severe, due to a crash or roadworks, he would take the recommended route through Kings Meadows but that it added between 10 and 15 minutes onto his travels, effectively doubling his trip time.
Mr Powell said the main issues he saw were the fact there were not alternative routes once a commitment was made to enter the Southern Outlet, and the addition to traffic by freight vehicles.
"To relieve the congestion we need to not have heavy vehicles driving through the centre of town, there needs to be a ring road around," he said.
To relieve the congestion we need to not have heavy vehicles driving through the centre of town, there needs to be a ring road around.John Powell, regular Southern Outlet user
Mr Powell's suggestion is not a new one. In fact, the state and federal governments, as part of their commitments to road networks across the country are conducting a $1.5 million feasibility study into the idea.
The study is currently underway and is due to finish mid 2022.
Riverside woman Bec McCade is another who admitted to having to consider the perils of travelling along the Midland Highway at peak times.
"If I have to travel on the Highway between 8.30 and 9, [the traffic] has an impact," she said.
While the traffic congestion bleeding from the Southern Outlet into and across Launceston continues to be an issue for commuters, those who have no other choice have found ways around it.
Summerhill taxi driver Brett, who also did not want his surname printed, had been a taxi driver in Launceston for 17 years.
He said he did not necessarily notice traffic had become worse overall, but that hotspots around town, like the Southern Outlet, Invermay Road, Bathurst and Wellington streets, and Goderich street at Invermay had always been bad and continued to be so.
Talking about the Southern Outlet, he said it had to be considered as extending onto Bathurst and Wellington streets.
It's not just along the Outlet. It's along Wellington and Bathurst. If any of the lanes are blocked off for any reason it just creates chaos further up the road," he said.
"Those streets take all the north-south traffic and there's been three lanes set up for a purpose. If you lose any of them, it just becomes untenable."
Those streets take all the north-south traffic and there's been three lanes set up for a purpose. If you lose any of them, it just becomes untenable.Brett, Launceston taxi driver
But his solution was knowing the routes around those spots, regardless of whether there was an incident there or not.
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