27 February 2024

End of flood-prone Coppins Crossing in sight as work starts on Molonglo River Bridge project

| Ian Bushnell
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An aerial view of the Molonglo River Bridge enabling works. Actual construction will start later in the year. Photo: ACT Government.

Enabling works have begun on the long-awaited $230 million Molonglo River Bridge project, which is expected to open to traffic by the end of 2025.

The critical project will replace the problematic, flood-prone Coppins Crossing and provide a secure, safe and streamlined route into and out of the growing Molonglo Valley suburbs.

The construction of the 200-metre-long bridge and the completion of John Gorton Drive will better connect the northern suburbs of Molonglo, including Whitlam, to the rest of the Molonglo Valley.

READ ALSO Molonglo Valley earns its own town centre with growing population

The bridge, to be built across the Molonglo Nature Reserve and the region’s largest river, will be Canberra’s tallest.

The project also includes 1.7 kilometres of new arterial roads leading to the bridge and two new intersections providing access to the future Molonglo Town Centre.

There will also be off-road shared paths and a pedestrian underpass to encourage more Canberrans to ride or walk to get to their destination.

The bridge and road network will also be capable of supporting a future light rail connection, but the project will also mean a better bus service to Molonglo with two new bus stops and two queue-jump bus lanes so rapid services can be expanded.

The enabling works and realignment of the northern approach road to Coppins Crossing will take up most of the year before actual construction of the bridge begins late in 2024.

Molonglo River Bridge

The completed bridge will be a key connection for the growing Molonglo Valley. Photo: ACT Government.

At a media event marking the start of works, Transport Minister Chris Steel deflected questions about delays to the project, saying it had always been timed to be completed by 2025 to meet Molonglo’s population projections and the development of Whitlam in the north.

“We always knew that with a current population of just over 12,000 or 13,000 people, there would be a need to have the bridge in place by around 2025,” he said.

“This project is incredibly important for Molonglo residents for two reasons – to provide access across the Molonglo River linking the northern suburbs and Molonglo with the southern suburbs, but what it will also do is connect residents with the proposed new Molonglo Town Centre, which will, of course, be a retail and services hub,” he said.

Mr Steel said that as well as the new intersections to be built as part of the bridge project, the Suburban Land Agency had also launched a development application for a further section of work on John Gorton Drive to the south, providing further connections into the new town centre.

He said public transport had been integral to the planning for the bridge, which will be light rail ready and is part of the Light Rail Master Plan.

The bridge would also enable more rapid buses to run through Molonglo, which will have three new suburbs added as part of Stage 3 of its development.

“In future, we’d like to see rapid buses being able to use the bridge once it’s open to connect those suburbs, and we want to have that conversation with the community about where those rapid bus services should go once they cross the bridge,” he said.

four people in hi-viz and hard hats

City Services Minister Tara Cheyne, Member for Bean David Smith, Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King, and Transport Minister Chris Steel mark the start of works on the Molonglo River Bridge. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

City Services Minister Tara Cheyne said the current number 47 bus would continue to run throughout construction and have right of way to maintain its schedule.

She said there would be some traffic disruptions, but the community would be kept updated on their extent.

There will also be shared cycleways and pathways on either side of the bridge.

“Then the SLA will be contributing to further shared path works on either side of the bridge on each side of the river and also with a pedestrian underpass.

“This is about connectivity, but it’s also about ensuring that there’s access and ensuring that we’re elevating the status of Molonglo,” she said.

READ ALSO Take a look at the new public school coming to Whitlam

Molonglo Valley Community Forum chair Ryan Hemsley said the project was a long time coming but was probably the most significant construction work to happen in the Molonglo Valley since the first sods were turned for Coombs and Wright early last decade.

“We feel confident now with all the construction work that’s happening here that we’ll have this bridge up and ready by December 2025,” he said.

“And I know residents of Whitlam are looking forward to having that flood-free access to the southern suburbs of Molonglo, Coombs, Wright and Denman Prospect, and likewise, the residents of Denman Prospect are very much looking forward to being able to access a high-level, flood-proof crossing across the Molonglo River to Belconnen, the city and Canberra’s northern suburbs.”

The project is being funded on a 50:50 basis between the ACT Government and the Commonwealth.

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Gregg Heldon7:53 am 28 Feb 24

Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing but stage 1 of light rail could have been Woden to Belconnen via Weston Creek and John Gorton Drive, building the bridge at the same time with the tracks in place.
Mind you, the Molonglo Valley probably won’t see it until 2080 anyway. About the same time they see a suburban sporting oval or the proposed town centre being 50%.
Infrastructure is not this Governments strong suit.

Linda Seaniger2:30 pm 27 Feb 24

The suburb of Wright commenced in around 2010, at best bridge won’t be completed until 2027.
I purchased my block in 2015 when Wright & Coombs were 90% complete so many residents, will have waited more than 15, years for the promised bridge.
Let’s not make traffic issues in the Molonglo worst by commencing three new suburbs until the bridge is complete. Especially when buses service is pathetic.

There is a light rail master plan? What does it say in the section about goals and cost benefit analysis? Is it designed to keep the outer suburbs further out by providing slower and slower public transport no one wants to use?

Hopefully the bridge contract is awarded to the best for the job and not the most gender diverse tree loving, most woke etc. Plenty of bridges fall down when the right people aren’t involved and many are puttiny ideology infront of safety.

Light rail has been a huge success. Maybe people have awoken to the idea 🙂

Light rail was the perfect solution to the problem which it created. Too much congestion.
Covid proved most of us can work from home. Yet we get no funding for internet.

Light rail wont work in the south because there is no congestion, it doesn’t take an hour to get out of tuggeranong. It will however take an hour on the tram to get to civic.

The cost of light rail was also pushing back and cancelling many projects like the hospital expansion. Instead of having a good number of beds when a pandemic hit, we had to build tempory at great cost.

No mention of anything to be done to ease the huuuuuge traffic burden at the Northern end of this!

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