Hovell Street wins reprieve — for now

THE contentious plan to close Hovell Street in Wodonga has been firmly placed on the back-burner.

Wodonga Council will tonight be presented with a preferred option to re-configure the existing “push button” pedestrian crossing between Woodland Grove and The Cube to a raised zebra crossing where pedestrians have right of way.

It is a major backdown from the council’s original intention 12 months ago to close Hovell Street, which had the support of mayor Rod Wangman.

But the Don’t Close Hovell Street Committee is not declaring victory and remains wary the closure will happen at some stage.

Committee member Pat Murphy said yesterday the council hadn’t considered a “significant public outcry” to kill off the idea.

“There is no doubt they are pushing ahead with their plan,” he said.

“They are doing whatever they can to reduce or minimise the public backlash.

“The council has failed to provide any independent economic data that it will not significantly impact the convenience, access or people’s decision making about where they park to go and shop.”

The council report canvassed five options for pedestrian improvement works to Hovell Street before selecting the raised zebra crossing, which would cost $80,000.

The report also noted the business backlash.

“It is recognised there remains public concerns relating to the possible impacts on High Street businesses of the proposed closure of the southern end of Hovell Street, the continued development of Junction Place and Mann’s, as well as future development in the broader central business area.

“This (option) aligns with council’s stated view of making the city more pedestrian friendly and creates a safer environment for pedestrians within the precinct.

“This option is unlikely to cause angst among the businesses as previously recorded.”

But traders were cautious about this statement in the report: “These works would not preclude future works to further connect Woodland Grove to The Cube courtyard”.

Other options considered were no change to Hovell Street, installing retractable bollards for temporary street closures, the removal of a centre median strip and introduction of a shared zone, and removal of southbound traffic.

The most expensive option was the removal of the centre median strip at a cost of $700,000.