In all the noise and hullabaloo surrounding the recent news the Territory Government is all but dumping the idea of a city stadium, you could be forgiven for having missed one of the reasons why.
That was thanks to a big highway that would need to be moved if a stadium were to be built on the site of the current Civic Pool.
Convenor of community organisation Greater Canberra, Howard Maclean, is advocating for an even more drastic step than just moving Parkes Way.
He wants it buried and turned into a tunnel instead, to free up all of the space it’s currently occupying.
“The big problem with Parkes Way and its cloverleaves is that they take up too much space and cut the city off from the lake,” Mr Maclean explained.
“It means people who are in the city can’t easily use the lake and Commonwealth Park without having to go over one of those narrow pedestrian bridges or hopping in the car.
“This problem will always persist so long as Parkes Way is there. It’s not going away in 50 years and it’s not going away in 1000 years unless something is done.”
The first section of what is now one of the city’s only east-to-west arterial roads opened to traffic in 1961. Subsequent sections opened in 1963 and 1979.
Mr Maclean described Parkes Way as having been inspired by traffic consultants’ visits to America, where highways were everywhere.
But it was never envisaged in Walter Burley Griffin’s original plans for the city.
Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, getting rid of Parkes Way or changing it somehow resurfaced often as an idea.
In a 2015 City to the Lake document, the Suburban Land Agency described it as an undesirable environment for building address and frontage and said the barrier of the road needed to be “overcome”.
“Parkes Way, in physical design and high-speed vehicle environment, creates a barrier between the city, Lake Burley Griffin and its Parkland. Grade separation and a lack of crossing points make this environment alienating to pedestrians, cyclists, and local traffic,” the document read.
And the Government has seriously considered doing something about it.
But the most recent set of plans was largely scuppered in 2016 when a business case presented to the government determined that the costs of doing so (about $460 million in 2014, likely $550m-plus now, according to Mr Maclean’s estimates) would far outweigh the benefits.
But Mr Maclean said this didn’t take into account the long-term benefits of the so-called “space creation project” and the traditional 30-year period for cost-benefit analysis is too short.
“The main benefits are about enabling the expansion of the city to meet the lake. You’re creating a whole lot of land that can be used for schools, for homes and places people want to be. It’s about imagining a larger city,” he said.
“Those places you create are never going to go away … which means there’s never going to be a point where we decide to tear up the neighbourhoods that we’ve built there.”
Mr Maclean is worried that the issue of burying Parkes Way will continue to rear its head at regular intervals in the future and it will keep on being stomped on as too expensive and not worth it – just like the city stadium tends to.
It needed action, he said, particularly as Canberra grew.
But there’s at least one benefit to a growing population – the more people you have, the more benefit land brings to the city.
A spokesperson for the Government said it was not currently considering lowering Parkes Way or turning it into a tunnel.