Kenny High School: turning things around

Evelyn Scott School, Denman Prospect, Molonglo Valley, ACT.

The design of the East Gungahlin High School in the new suburb of Kenny has been turned on its head as a result of the project being fast tracked in response to COVID-19.

One ends, the next begins

The Gungahlin estate development is nearing its end at the same time that the Molonglo Valley still has much to do. One of the last suburbs in Gungahlin is Kenny, north of EPIC, while in the Molonglo Valley only 20% is complete (Simon Tennent, Development Director, Molonglo Valley Community Forum, March 2021). 

At we are all about safe active travel networks. Building on a greenfield is one of the cheapest ways to achieve this. In principal, all it requires is good design. The infrastructure needs to be built anyway. Urban planners are all about good design, but the complexity of an estate and commercial considerations make the process more uncertain than “only good design” may suggest. 

COVID-19 has turned everything on its head, including the way the ACT Government goes about development. ACT Government has fast tracked infrastructure in old suburbs and now it is fast tracking infrastructure in the new. Breaking with the usual procedure makes sense, but of course there are also some problematic consequences.

Gungahlin Community Council

Gungahlin Community Council provides interesting insights into the end phase of the creation of a new district. 

The ACT Government had planned and promised to duplicate Well Station Drive, south of Harrison and north of the new suburb of Kenny. COVID-19 changed all that. The Kenny High School has been fast tracked for completion in 2023, and there is now insufficient time to complete the duplication. The school will generate a lot of traffics so that road work is necessary. A compromise needs to be found. Road works are planned for the west end of Well Station Drive alongside the new school – the rest will be done later. 

Kenny High School is the subject of three development applications: the school, the site and the road. ACT Education is responsible for the first and ACT Transport (TCCS) for the last. The site itself is covered by the Kenny High School Estate Development Plan (202138619), which was released this week. This development application includes traffic analysis and recommendations for bike paths around the school. This is made more difficult by the lack of an Estate Plan for Kenny itself. The suburb Kenny is at a very early stage of design. 

Whitlam estate

The last two development applications for Whitlam (Stage 2 and 3) demonstrate that the planning of a Main Community Route is not as certain as it may seem. In Stage 2 (2019), the development application did not show a Main Community Route running east-west through Whitlam, but now it does. The Stage 3 development application has a Main Community Route along the bottom of Sculthorpe Avenue as well as a proposed dam over Deep Creek.

The proposal is a good. The discussion here is about the fact that it has moved despite or because of all the design work. The Whitlam estate design is now in a late phase. Do not think the preferred corridor for a Main Community Route is obvious. It is not!

See below, before and after: Active Travel Network Existing and Future Plan (community routes planned) for Whitlam from the development application for Stage 2 from 2019 and 3 from 2021.

Active Travel Network Existing and Future Plan, Whitlam Stage 2 DA ATRA, PLAN-201936061-ACTIVE_TRAVEL_NETWORK-01
Before (2019), Active Travel Network Existing and Future Plan, Whitlam Stage 2 DA ATRA, PLAN-201936061-ACTIVE_TRAVEL_NETWORK-01
Active Travel Network Existing and Future Plan, Whitlam Stage 3 DA, SUPP-202038138-ACTIVE_TRAVEL_NETWORK-01
After (2021), Active Travel Network Existing and Future Plan, Whitlam Stage 3 DA, SUPP-202038138-ACTIVE_TRAVEL_NETWORK-01

The corridor itself may be part of the problem. The corridors for the cycle highways (trunk routes) through the Molonglo Valley have not been fixed in advance and the development designed around them. Rather, other factors in the Molonglo have taken precedence. The development of the active travel framework, guidelines, standards and standard drawings since 2015 (and coming to an end in 2018), saw the establishment of corridors to be reserved for cycle highways. Cycle highways are the Principle (PCR) or Main Community Routes (MCR) in the Active Travel documents. Corridors are labelled Active Travel Route Alignments (ATRA). The consultants who do the design work for the ACT Government find the Active Travel Route Alignments in the Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT). 

The Main Community Routes are shown on the maps above in blue. The line is dotted when it is yet to be constructed.

East Gungahlin High School EDP 

East Gungahlin High School is the official current name for Kenny High School.

The suburb Kenny may not yet have an Estate Development Plan (EDP) but the school does. For the suburb of Kenny, Active Travel Route Alignments (corridors) have been added to the Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT). For Whitlam, the corridors have still not been added, leaving the ATIPT for the Molonglo Valley out of date advocates for safe bike paths. The analysis of the path requirements for active travel are part of this development application. More specifically, they are discussed in the Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny, November 2020, from the Kenny School Development Application 202138619, released on 12 May 2021.

As the suburb of Kenny has yet to be designed, the approach for this analysis was to start with the current data and extrapolate the traffic that the school will generate. The Active Travel Route Alignments (corridors) and active travel standards were then considered. 

The result from this approach overwhelmingly favours local active travel to adjacent suburbs. The school’s catchment area lies to the north of the school. The design does little for the commuting cyclist. Building Principle Community Routes is about cross-town connections and not really considered in this approach.

New Kenny suburb flood areas. Map: ACT Flood Map, ACTmapi, accessed 31 August 2021.
New Kenny suburb flood areas. Map: ACT Flood Map, ACTmapi, accessed 31 August 2021.

Transport Impact Assessment Report

The steps taken in the Transport Impact Assessment Report to determine the active travel requirements. This is a summary of how it was done, and a full explanation is found in the report (attached, pages 62-68).

Step 1: determine the traffic

They started by looking at existing cycling in the area which is not that high. This is not surprising as the Flemington Road bike path (CBR Cycle Route 11) ends at Well Station Drive does not currently have an off-road bike path. Horse Park Drive has an off-road cycle path that connects to the Majura Parkway cycleway.

The connection between Flemington Road and Horse Park Drive is poor, creating a missing link, that discourages cycling. 

Step 2: new traffic expected from the shool

The active travel traffic is from the enrolment area in 2023 and later in Kenny 2031. The predicted traffic is based on historical data, derived from other schools in the ACT but includes a 30% aspirational target. 

Step 3: cycling corridors

Consideration of the Active Travel Network and, in particular, the Active Travel Route Alignments (corridors) found in Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT). 

Step 4: active travel standards

Consideration of the community path requirements is derived from consideration of recommendations from the active travel standards for path widths. The ACT MIS05 and Austroads AGRD06A active travel standards provides a range of widths.

The result. Off-road movement plan (50520069-EDP-1025), East Gungahlin High School EDP, Kenny School Development Application 202138619

Why this matters

We would generally expect the higher-order trunk paths, PCR and MCR, to be widest, but this is not the case. The AGRD6A recommends separated pedestrian and cycle only paths around the school. It is worth noting the logic of why this was rejected (attached report page 65). 

Example: The PCR in one section has an existing provision of just 1.5 m (footpath) and the MIS05 requirement is 3-5 m, however, the recommendation is “no change”. How does a 1.5 m wide PCR even make sense? (see report table 44, page 65)

The outcome is community paths that are optimised around the needs of the school, which is to be expected considering the scope of the study. The outcome will be poor for cyclists in that it does not contribute to the overarching network of trunk paths (PCR or MCR) that make it possible to ride greater distances across the city.

On a more optimistic note, it is worth remembering that the Well Station Drive duplication could and should include an off-road bike path and the new suburb includes cycling corridors. The great amount of work to be done in this area suggests that there is still plenty of opportunities to fix these problems.

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