13 April 2023

First designs for Commonwealth Bridge renewal project unveiled

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
man and woman pointing at a map

NCA Project Director Greg Tallentire and NCA Chief Executive Sally Barnes with the designs. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Five-metre-wide shared paths and refreshed approaches are part of the design concept for the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge renewal project unveiled by the National Capital Authority.

The $137 million project will bring the 60-year-old iconic bridge into the modern era, strengthening it so it can bear the increasing traffic load of a city approaching half a million strong and widening it to cater for the 1000 pedestrians and 2000 cyclists and growing that use the twin bridges in peak periods.

READ ALSO National Museum exhibition grows harmoniously out of lockdown

Over the next four days, the NCA will now take the concept to the public with pop-ups around Lake Burley Griffin.

The design concept shows a sympathetic widening that maintains the overall symmetry of the bridge, with the change only noticeable from directly beneath the structure.

This will give pedestrians, runners and cyclists more room for a safer journey across the Lake.

Cycling group Pedal Power was consulted on the design, being asked if it preferred an on-road cycle lane or a shared path (unsurprisingly, the group opted for the safer shared-path option).

render of shared path on bridge

An artist’s impression of the proposed five-metre-wide shared pathway. Image: NCA.

It is expected that bicycles and other modes of transport, such as scooters, will keep to the left while pedestrians walk alongside the outside rail.

The project will also install new handrails, safety barriers and better lighting.

The approaches will be revamped and landscaped to provide more amenity and improve active travel flow and connections along the lake loop.

In the north, there will be a new shared path, a new active travel route, and a new accessible footpath, and the car park will be removed.

In the south, the existing stairs will be removed and replaced, a pathway from the foreshore will be widened for cyclists, a new accessible ramp to the shared path will be installed, and a new pathway arrangement to improve travel around the bridge.

aerial view indicating proposed changes to bridge

What the northern approach next to Commonwealth Park will look like. Image: NCA.

The strengthening work will bring the bridge up to modern load standards and involve work around and in between the piers.

While the light rail bridge proposed as part of Light Rail Stage 2B to Woden will be built and managed by the ACT Government, the design concept does allow for a third span which will have to align with and blend with the existing structure.

The NCA expects to complete the design process by year’s end and begin the construction work next year with an anticipated finish by the end of 2025.

The work will mean further disruption to Canberra commuters who are already grappling with the Raising London Circuit project ahead of the laying of track for the light rail extension to Commonwealth Park.

But the Bridge project is not expected to clash with the construction of Light Rail Stage 2A.

The traffic management is yet to be finalised but will involve either alternate span closures or contraflow arrangements.

aerial view indicating proposed changes to bridge

Better flow and more accessibility: how the southern approach will change. Image: NCA.

Next steps will include the project going before the Parliamentary Works Committee in May and further public consultation later in the year.

NCA chief executive Sally Barnes said the years of disruption along the southern approach to the city would be worth it in the long run.

“At the end of that project, the whole of Commonwealth Avenue, the Bridge and approaches are going to be renewed and this will leave it even more beautiful than it is now,” she said.

“If we don’t do it altogether, we’ll miss the opportunity to renew this part of the city for the next 60 years.”

READ ALSO Canberra Modern shines a light on the city’s experimental mid-century architecture

Ms Barnes said that with the increasing load and heavier vehicles, the work on the bridge needed to be done to give a further 60 years of service to the city.

She said the NCA was working very closely with the ACT Government to minimise disruptions and have all these projects work together and keep the bridge open so people can get to work and continue to use the pedestrian paths around the Lake.

The pop-ups will take place from 9 am to 11 am at Commonwealth Place on Thursday (13 April) and Saturday (15 April), and at Barrine Drive on Friday (14 April) and Sunday (16 April).

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Where will I park if the existing car park has been removed? Where’s the balance in the design for all modes of transport?

Carol Miller3:44 pm 13 Apr 23

I know it’s not part of the bridge renewal itself but what will become of the flagpoles either side of Commonwealth Ave? What plans does the NCA and Sally Barnes have for them?

Kings Avenue bridge needs similar attention. The eastern side (that faces Kingston) has no pedestrian or bike approaches or access yet has well-worn paths from the people who use it.

How about getting rid of those stupid pedestrian traffic lights that close 6 lanes of traffic for one person, they use to be used only when floriade was on

I cannot understand how an under path has now been thought of or implemented.
It would save the traffic both ways. Pedestrian and vehicular, connect the parking on the West side of the “6 lanes” to commonwealth park and when the tram comes can be integrated into the stop for people to disperse and or embark via the under pass. It would future proof the whole system. As others have mentioned, one person crossing holds up the whole 6 lanes, were with an underpass if could be seamless both ways, and include the future tram.
Just finished travelling abroad and it appears that Canberra is the only place that doesn’t get how an underpass works.

I just noticed the curves coming off the bridge on the south side. The central curve looks problematic. Being that sharp bikes will possible be leaning to take it, which could be a problem for all concerned. That is, if people (pedestrians and cyclists) don’t just take the more direct route across the grass.
Why such a tight curve?

The wider path should be split for pedestrians and cyclists. Perhaps wider for bikes to allow two-way, but give the pedestrians the lake side, so people can stop and look at the lake.

I love how this is supposed to be a bridge regeneration that if missed won’t happen for 60yrs… Yet nowhere does this renewal examine the traffic access to the north side/Floriade, aside from retaining it.

So we’re building this lovely area to sustain our population growth, but getting there during peak seasons/holidays, that’ll still back-up the entire bridge.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.