Works to strengthen Commonwealth Bridge and widen shared pedestrian and cycleway paths are expected to be complete in 2024-25. The program shunts construction of a new crossing to carry light rail across the lake to the back half of the decade.
The National Capital Authority (NCA) has issued a `request for tender’ for a design consultant for the $137 million project which will strengthen and widen the key bridge across Lake Burley Griffin, increase its load-bearing capacity, improve safety barriers and offer more space for pedestrians and cyclists.
NCA CEO Sally Barnes said the authority hoped the project could be completed by the end of 2024.
It had considered whether it would be more efficient to strengthen the bridge at the same time as the proposed Light Rail Stage 2B crossing but it was unknown when the latter would be ready.
“We need to get on with the strengthening because we couldn’t see when the other bridge would be coming to fruition,” Ms Barnes said.
Any rail crossing will now have to wait until this project is finished.
Ms Barnes said the tenderers would not have to take into account the future rail bridge proposed between the two road spans, but they would need to ensure their designs adhered to the values in the Commonwealth heritage listing of the lake and adjacent lands.
“The tender points to the listing so anyone designing the improvements knows what the listing says and addresses the values,” she said.
She said a new rail bridge could not become the dominant feature of Commonwealth Bridge and detract from the presence of the existing spans or obstruct any views or vistas.
The NCA had been working with the ACT Government so was aware of the bridge’s heritage values and could guide the design of a central rail span.
Ms Barnes said the listing, which she described as formalising already-held heritage standards, should not in itself be a barrier to a rail crossing.
“I think a good designer can work within those constraints and deliver something quite beautiful that will actually maintain the beauty of the existing bridges,” she said.
The heritage listing should not impede the progress for Stage 2A, awaiting works approval from the NCA, or Stage 2B to Woden which was still going through federal environmental approvals.
“We will be using the new listing to do the impact assessments but it’s pretty close to what we’ve been using already so we’re just going through that right now just to make sure,” Ms Barnes said.
Canberrans can expect massive traffic disruptions to the southern gateway to Civic with bridge work coinciding with the enabling works for light rail Stage 2A to Commonwealth Park, including the raising of London Circuit and the expected start of track laying in late 2024.
The NCA said the timing of works would be coordinated with the ACT Government and phased to minimise community disruption.
Road and lake closures will be advised as the project progresses.
Built in the early 1960s, Commonwealth Bridge has remained one of the busiest transport assets in Canberra.
The Commonwealth is funding the work as a priority infrastructure project.