The cutting of $85.9 million of road funding in the Federal Budget and diversion to light rail Stage 2A has received a mixed response from community representatives.
It was revealed in Senate estimates on Friday (28 October) that the South West Corridor ($50.9 m) Kings Highway upgrades to Pialligo Avenue ($30 m) and Boboyan Road project ($5 m) had been axed, with the same amount allocated to light rail, with the last payment in 2029-30.
Federal bureaucrats also said Stage 2A would be delivered in January 2026, something Transport Minister Chris Steel has refused to say.
A disappointed Tuggeranong Community Council President Glenys Patulny said the South West Corridor project for the Tuggeranong Parkway, including between the Cotter Road and Glenloch Interchange, should have been kept to alleviate the pressures that light rail construction would bring to the whole road network.
Ms Patulny said the cut was short-sighted and the Federal and ACT governments had not taken a big-picture view of the whole road system.
She said there would be more and more pressure on the Parkway as the population of the Molonglo Valley grew and as disruptions increased from first light rail stage 2A to Commonwealth Park and then Stage 2B when it progressed towards Woden down Adelaide Avenue.
“These are things that could have a big effect, not just now but into the future, but more when the tram comes online,” she said. “There’s going to be more and more pressure on this Parkway and it needs to be up to scratch.”
Ms Patulny said it wasn’t just about catering for more cars because an extra lane on the Parkway could also be used for electric buses.
She said the Parkway was the most direct route into the City from Tuggeranong and the road served three regions – Tuggeranong, Weston Creek and Molonglo.
“I personally like the idea of the tram, but I think they’ve got to look at the whole picture at the same time, and is this the best thing to cut?”
Weston Creek Community Council chair Bill Gemmell said he understood both governments’ reasoning that projects needed to be prioritised with construction resources under pressure.
“We’re running out of labour and construction inputs,” he said.
“I don’t know where they were going to get the construction workers, prices would have been inflated by the time they got around to doing it, and was it really a priority project?
“If asked whether we want to improve access into Civic via the Parkway, we’ll all say, ‘of course we do’, but I think we need to take a step back and think about priorities.”
Mr Gemmell said being able to put more vehicles down the Parkway was like putting more water in a funnel – “only so much will go in”.
But with the community facing a decade of disruption, he urged the government to be clearer about the implications of the light rail project.
It was important to get the job done as quickly as possible to minimise the disruption, and the reallocation of funding would help with that, Mr Gemmell said.
An ACT Government spokesperson said the Commonwealth reached out to all State and Territory Governments to ensure projects were realistic, achievable and sustainable in the challenging current construction market.
The spokesperson said that the funding for light rail ensured that the $85.9 million stayed in the ACT.
The spokespersons said the South-West Corridor project’s aims were always unclear and the former Coalition Government had refused the ACT Government’s request to have the money redirected into the major bottleneck at Parkes Way.
“We agreed in good faith to use a small amount of funding to undertake a feasibility study on what upgrades could be delivered on the Southwest Corridor to inform future planning. This work is currently underway,” the spokesperson said.
“The Australian Government’s decision to redirect the remainder of funding to other projects for the time being also reflects the reality that we cannot undertake major upgrades to all of the roads to the city from the Southside, including Monaro Highway, Athllon Drive, Commonwealth Avenue and John Gorton Drive all at the same time as tearing up the Tuggeranong Parkway for no clear reason.”
The spokesperson said the Pialligo Avenue project had unresolved planning and environmental issues to do with the future extension of the runway at Canberra Airport.
In relation to Boboyan Road, talks were continuing with the Commonwealth to reclassify roads in the ACT, which are regional/rural roads, so that they attract 80/20 funding as in other states and territories.