New traffic measures will be enforced in southern Tuggeranong from Wednesday following a barrage of complaints from commuters stranded on Tharwa Drive for up to an hour and a half this week.
But emergency services minister Joy Burch has urged the community to recognise the "greater gain" of the new South Tuggeranong Fire and Rescue Station before criticising the traffic delays its construction has caused.
The closure of Tharwa Drive for the installation of a sewer main left frustrated commuters from several southern suburbs stranded in traffic for hours on Monday and Tuesday morning.
Some reported delays of up to an hour and a half during peak times.
Drivers criticised the decision to begin the road closures on the day many Canberrans were returning to work after the holiday break and questioned why the work couldn't be undertaken at night with some lanes kept open to ease the congestion.
Additional traffic management measures, including a temporary slip lane from Jim Pike Avenue, are expected to reduce delays from Wednesday as the works are completed.
The left-turn-only slip lane at the Woodcock Drive intersection aims to help drivers turn left more easily on what is normally a hard shoulder lane. Vehicles will merge into the single lane.
Traffic control marshals will be stationed at every intersection on Woodcock Drive and at the Lanyon shops roundabout to manage traffic flow. ACTION buses will have priority access where possible.
Temporary three-way traffic lights controlling evening peak traffic at the intersection of Johnson, Drakeford and Woodcock Drive will also be examined.
Existing detours to Drakeford Drive and Tharwa Drive are marked along Woodcock Drive at Gordon, with a detour to the Monaro Highway via Johnson Drive at Calwell.
Ms Burch and Emergency Services Agency commissioner Dominic Lane apologised for the "unavoidable" road closure, but said the work was essential for the new fire station.
"I was in traffic myself for over an hour," Ms Burch said.
"It's essential work, it's important work, we need to get it done but we also rightly need to work across agencies to see if we can make traffic flow a little bit better.
"The works were scheduled for this period as many people are still on Christmas leave but clearly better traffic management is needed."
Territory and Municipal Services minister Shane Rattenbury defended the original controls on Tuesday saying they came after consultation with the Tuggeranong Community Council when plans to bore under the road to minimise disruptions had to be abandoned because of poor quality road base.
Workers instead had to cut a large trench through the area which, if done if one fell swoop, would take 10-11 days rather than a staggered seven weeks, Mr Rattenbury told ABC radio.
Mr Lane said "magnificent progress" had been made since the first sod was turned at the site of the fire station last February.
The station will act as a fire and emergency hub for the next 40 years covering Banks, Conder, Theodore and other suburbs. It will be finished by autumn and fully operational by winter with a fire crew onsite 24/7.
Mr Lane said the site had been decided as the best location through the ACT government's station upgrade and relocation program.
He said the ESA would have preferred to have avoided the closure of the road but it was the only option.
"This will be last of the major traffic disruptions, obviously at a construction site there will be vehicle movement for a number of months, but once this is over before school goes back we will be back into normal traffic patterns," he said.
Mr Lane said the ESA was working with the contractors to see if work could be sped up.
In the event of a major emergency, such as a bushfire, the ESA has made arrangements to place heavy duty steel road plates over the trench, enabling a single lane of northbound traffic to evacuate.
- with Emma Kelly
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