The Canberra Liberals have announced a plan to add additional road capacity on Northbourne Avenue, the Federal Highway and Flemington Road to deliver a rapid transit corridor that its transport spokesman says will be faster than light rail at a fraction of the cost, but Labor says the plan would create “an eight-lane gridlocked highway”.
Shadow Minister for Transport Alistair Coe said today that the plan consisted of dedicated bus infrastructure, safe cycle lanes and additional road lanes.
“With the infrastructure we’re proposing, express buses will travel from Gungahlin to the City in 17 minutes, almost 10 minutes faster than trams,” Mr Coe said.
He said a Liberal government would create a dedicated southbound bus lane from Harrison to the city, a dedicated northbound bus lane from Barry Drive to Antill Street and an additional traffic lane then on to the Barton Highway.
There would be north/south cycle paths in the median strip for 12 m between Gungahlin and the City; duplication of single lane stretches of Flemington Road to ease bottlenecks; and measures to allow buses to bypass the Federal-Barton Highway intersection.
“Our current plan is for the bus lanes on Northbourne Avenue to be kerbside; however, a Canberra Liberals Government will seek expert engineering advice as to whether a median aligned bus lane would be a better option,” Mr Coe said.
Regardless of the alignment, he said the dedicated bus lanes would allow for less than 30 minute commutes by bus at peak hour from every Gungahlin suburb.
“The Canberra Liberals would seek to task the Canberra Metro Consortium to undertake this work, rather than a tram. We’re budgeting $58 million for these works, which includes a significant contingency.
“This comprehensive infrastructure plan for the Northbourne corridor will save the ACT over a billion dollars and provide a better transport solution.”
Labor transport spokeswoman Meegan Fitzharris has in a statement described the Liberals’ proposal as a “plan to concrete Northbourne Avenue” that will turn it into “an eight-lane gridlocked highway, at a cost of hundreds of millions”.
“The plan announced today would allow for nothing more than a conga line of buses clogging up the city’s main entry road, which won’t even stop to pick up passengers along the route,” she said.
“The proposal is poorly thought through, massively underfunded and excludes the $300 million cost to rip up the existing light rail contract.
“The travel times floated are simply impossible, especially when the extra lane runs out at Flemington Road.”
She is also derisive at “the ridiculous notion that an international light rail consortium would agree to lay concrete and build bike paths instead”.
“It is like asking someone who is building your house to build you a car instead,” she said.
Both Labor and the Greens have called on the Canberra Liberals to submit details of their plan to Treasury for independent costing.
“They must also confirm that they have received NCA approval to concrete Northbourne Ave, with no hope of replanting any of the trees that would have to be removed,” the Labor statement said.