10 May 2021

ACT gets its share of Budget infrastructure dollars

| Ian Bushnell
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Aerial of William Hovell Drive

An aerial shot of the unduplicated section of William Hovell Drive. Photo: TCCS.

The Federal Budget’s national infrastructure cash splash has sprinkled the ACT with $167 million worth of projects, although most of that is the previously announced funding for light rail Stage 2A through the City West to Commonwealth Park.

As well as the $132.5 million for light rail announced in February, tomorrow night’s Budget will also include $26.5 million to duplicate the remaining sections of William Hovell Drive, an additional $5 million for the Gundaroo Drive Duplication and $2.5 million for upgrades to Beltana Road in Pialligo.

The duplication of William Hovell Drive, between Drake Brockman Drive and John Gorton Drive, will support the growing regions of Molonglo Valley and West Belconnen, including the new suburbs of Strathnairn and Macnamara.

Transport Canberra and City Services says more than 20,000 vehicles a day already use the road, and this will increase as the area continues to develop.

The Commonwealth is embarking on a $10 billion infrastructure plan as part of its strategy to help the nation recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic and a drive to achieve full employment.

The ACT, a Labor stronghold, has often complained about being overlooked in Federal infrastructure funding, and Liberal Senator Zed Seselja has been criticised that he is not a strong enough advocate for the Territory.

But in recent times, the Senator has been able to say he has delivered as the Commonwealth doled out more funding to the ACT, particularly for key roads and health projects such as the new ICU at Canberra Hospital.

ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja

ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja: more wins for Canberra. Photo: File.

Senator Seselja said that this year’s Budget continued the Federal Government’s commitment to critical infrastructure across the Territory.

“The Liberal-National Government’s infrastructure bonanza continues for Canberra, with more than $300 million of new investment in projects right across our city announced in this calendar year alone and more than $1.5 billion announced in recent years,” Senator Seselja said.

“Regular users of the Beltana, Kallaroo and Dapu Place road corridor in Pialligo will benefit from $2.5 million in much-needed safety upgrades in this week’s Budget, and we are boosting our commitment for the congestion-busting duplication of Gundaroo Drive to $25 million.

“We are backing jobs and boosting our economic recovery by investing in infrastructure projects for the future of Canberra. This includes our commitment to $88 million for the Molonglo River Bridge, $50 million for upgrades along the Tuggeranong Parkway corridor, and $115 million for the Monaro Highway.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the budget funding was a key plank of the Federal Government’s plan to help Australia bounce back stronger than ever from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The government is driving the delivery of major infrastructure projects to map the economic road back from the pandemic, building the economy and providing certainty for business over the long term,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“The new $26.5 William Hovell Drive Duplication project will bust congestion for commuters from West Belconnen and surrounding suburbs while also supporting more than 170 jobs in the ACT at a time when it is needed most.

“This is on top of the Australian Government’s recent commitments of $137 million to upgrade Commonwealth Avenue Bridge (delivered by the National Capital Authority) and $132.5 million for Canberra Light Rail – Stage 2A.”

The ACT Government will match all of these infrastructure funding announcements.

The ACT’s national cultural institutions will also be looking to benefit from the Federal Government while it is in such a spending mood, especially with half-billion going to the Australian War Memorial expansion over the next decade.

The Federal Government has already announced $11.3 million in the Budget for Old Parliament House so the House of Representatives chamber can be restored, and water damage, electrical works and other maintenance at the building can be addressed.

The National Archives of Australia, in particular, has been lobbying hard for more resources so it can preserve and digitise historically significant material that may be lost forever if the work is not done soon.

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