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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
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).