There are calls for the ACT Government to fast-track the long-awaited Molonglo River Bridge project and boost safety on Coppins Crossing Road after Sunday’s horror smash that claimed three lives.
Community representatives and regular users of the increasingly busy road linking Belconnen with the fast-growing Molonglo Valley have been calling for a new road and bridge across the Molonglo River for years.
The accident happened where two lanes merge into one on a downhill slope before heading into a corner.
Weston Creek Community Council Chair Bill Gemmell drives the route regularly and says that section of the road is a dangerous pinch point and deceptive to the inexperienced driver, especially if travelling at speed.
“They will cross the centre of the road there because they’re coming down the hill too fast,” he said.
“It’s quite a deceptive road.”
But he was loathe to link the accident to the bridge project, saying the bigger issue was the way infrastructure was often delayed until residents were in place and the pressure was too great.
Molonglo Community Forum co-convenor Monique Brouwer said it was hoped that the government would not wait until the findings of the investigation to make the road safer.
“It’s so unsafe that road at the best of times. We’ve been calling out for the bridge and for Coppins Crossing and that whole stretch of road to be fixed for a long, long time,” Ms Brouwer said.
“Is there more we can do to make it a safe road as we’re waiting for the results of the investigation?”
Ms Brouwer said drivers needed to slow down where the lanes merge because that was where accidents happened.
She said the bridge project can’t come too soon.
“It’s just tragic and the Forum hopes that the government fast-tracks the bridge as much as they can to get it moving because that will improve that whole section of road,” she said.
The speed limit on the road is 80 km/h unless otherwise signposted, but there are calls for it to be 60 km/h on either side of the crossing where it is only two lanes.
“The whole road is a hodge-podge of signage. Missing, damaged and frequently changed because of roadworks makes it pretty hard to work out the speed limit,” one post on social media said.
Another said government management of Coppins Crossing and its approaches had been poor, particularly with increasing traffic loads from new suburbs on each side.
As well as a lower speed limit, the post from the ‘Is Coppins Crossing Open Yet?’ website called for a ban on heavy or articulated vehicles from using Coppins Crossing, widening the roadway to include road shoulders, installing more street lighting and clearing overhanging vegetation and embankments that obscure the road ahead.
The ACT Government said it was committed to delivering the duplication of John Gorton Drive and Molonglo River Bridge, and the project was still on track for completion in 2025.
A spokesperson said the Tender Evaluation Team was assessing the submissions for the project’s design and construction.
The detailed design work will commence in early 2023 and is expected to be completed around the middle of the year.
But the spokesperson said some factors could delay completion.
“The timing of major infrastructure projects is dependent on initial works being completed, which includes detailed design completion and environmental and planning approvals,” the spokesperson said.
“Construction timing is also impacted by Australia’s highly competitive construction market, which is placing significant demand on the availability of labour and materials.”
The bridge project will not only mean a safer and more appropriate route between Belconnen and Molonglo and Weston Creek but a secure one not blocked by floodwaters or debris when there is heavy rain.