Last Thursday night, at Tannock Hall, Notre Dame University, Fremantle, the Mains Roads WA proposal to replace the historic Traffic Bridge across the Derbarl Yerrigan/Swan River from North Fremantle to Fremantle was the subject of wide and animated discussion at a major public event.
Here’s the earlier opinion piece by Rebecca Clarkson raising a raft of concerning issues about the proposal, that led to the public event.
At the public event, informed panel members and many from the Freo community demanded that the obvious ‘person’ absent from event – notwithstanding that they had been invited – Main Roads WA, should engage with Freo people directly to respond to the sorts of issues raised by Rebecca Clarkson and identified during the meeting.
Well, SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED!
As of this morning, Thursday morning, 6 August 2020, Rita Saffioti, the Minister for Transport, and Planning has announced that the McGowan Government is seeking community feedback on the project to replace the Fremantle Traffic Bridge across the Swan River.
Her announcement says that Swan River Crossings project involves the replacement of the deteriorated Fremantle Traffic Bridge with a new solution that considers future needs for road, rail, walking, cycling and boating.
She also noted that Infrastructure Australia listed the bridge replacement as a national priority in its 2019 Infrastructure Priority List following earlier submissions from the State Government.
Ms Saffioti explains that the project is ‘highly complex and is situated in a challenging area’. To get the project to its current phase of planning and investigation, she states that the State Government has been consulting with a variety of stakeholders, including the City of Fremantle, and that The Mayor of Fremantle and the City’s executive are represented on the Project Steering Committee.
What the Minister doesn’t state, however, is that representatives of the City of Fremantle have been under non-disclosure, confidentiality obligations to this point as to those discussions and have not been at liberty to discuss them with we, the people of Freo. The result has been that the community of Freo have known nothing of the detail of the implementation of the project.
But the Minister has Just announced that the project team is keen to hear from the community during the next planning phase to achieve the best possible outcome for this exciting piece of infrastructure.
As such, the State Government is launching a ‘community survey and several community meetings that will provide key input into design elements for the project, working within a number of technical and environmental constraints’.
She says that ‘Community feedback will help inform heritage interpretation, design objectives, urban design and pedestrian and cycling connectivity.’
That sounds like good news, indeed.
The announcement states that there are several engineering and operational constraints that mean the general alignment of the new structure needs to situated east of the current traffic bridge, and that key factors include:
* new bridge must be built east of the existing bridge to enable parts of old structure to be retained and traffic to remain open during construction;
* there is insufficient space to fit a new, modern-standard structure between the existing road and rail bridges;
* the heritage-listed ferry capstan and current traffic bridge would be impacted by an alignment between the existing road and rail bridges;
* building west of the existing rail bridge would disrupt freight and passenger rail movements, as well as port operations, during the two-year construction phase;
* building west of the existing freight bridge would also require relocation of infrastructure such as Western Power’s sub-station.
The Minister adds that the State Government is committed to retaining a significant part of the existing Fremantle Traffic Bridge on the southern foreshore. It, significantly adds, ‘retention is not possible due to constraints including:
* after 80 years of service and costly ongoing repairs, the existing structure is at the end of its life and retention presents a safety risk; and
* retaining pylons will create further navigational hazards for boat users on this busy part of the Swan River.’
Why didn’t Main Roads WA come to the community public event when invited to explain these things?
In every way Main Roads are coming to the party late. They, through the Minster – or perhaps because the Minister has required them to do so – is now engaging in engagement with the informed and engaged Freo public.
The Minister’s statement says –
‘To help inform project planning as it enters its next phase, the Community Survey and information sessions will provide valuable grassroots input. Consultation will then be reviewed, with key outcomes reported back to the community.’
It also notes that, In addition to community input on the new Fremantle Traffic Bridge, the final concept will be subject to review by the independent State Design Review Panel.
Finally, it also says that heritage and architectural leads will also form part of the alliance project team that will develop, design and construct the project.
Details on how to provide feedback can be found at the My Say Transport webpage including information on an online community survey and community drop in sessions to be held in August and September.
The Minister, Rita Saffioti is quoted as saying –
It has been well known for more than a decade that the Fremantle Traffic Bridge needs replacing so we’re excited to reach the stage of community consultation.
While there are a number of technical and operational constraints, there is an exciting opportunity for locals to have their say on how the bridge will look and how surrounding public areas can be activated.
“The new crossing will create new cycling and walking links between Perth and Fremantle for the first time, along with new public space. We look forward to hearing more from the community.
Local MP Simone McGurk, who attended and spoke as a member of the the panel at the recent public event, and who can undoubtedly take much credit for getting this action from Mains Roads WA and the Minister, says –
Replacing the traffic bridge will put an end to expensive patch ups while offering new opportunities to integrate community ideas into the new design and heritage interpretation.
A lot of work has gone into getting the project to this stage – securing State funding, building a case for Federal funding, identifying constraints and mapping out technical requirements.
We recognise the importance of this project to Freo locals, so facilitating informed and meaningful community input on the new structure is essential.
Bicton MLA Lisa O’Malley, who was not at the public event but was represented at the meeting, says –
The new bridge is a great opportunity to replace the 80-year-old structure with something that caters for all parts of the community.
The new bridge will have the same amount of traffic lanes but include far better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.
I am keen to hear feedback from the many boaties that also use this part of the river about the opportunities for improvement at water level.
So Freo people let’s get organised on the Bridge engagement!