ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel has rejected suggestions the planned construction of the bridge across the Molonglo River at Coppins Crossing has been pushed back.
Molonglo and Weston Creek community representatives were dismayed at Mr Steel’s comments in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday, 3 June, that construction of the key link would now start in mid-2023 ahead of the bridge opening as early as 2025, saying this is one year after the original date outlined in the ACT Government’s 2019 Infrastructure Plan.
Interim spokesperson for the Molonglo Valley Community Forum, Ryan Hemsley, said the delays are frustrating for residents and businesses of the Molonglo Valley, and for many Canberrans who are affected when Coppins Crossing floods.
“This bridge is a vital piece of infrastructure for the Molonglo Valley, Weston Creek and Canberra,” he said. “When Coppins Crossing floods, the pressure and congestion placed on Cotter Road and Tuggeranong Parkway impacts businesses and residents right across the ACT.”
He said a Transport Canberra and City Services document obtained through Freedom of Information showed there had been delays in obtaining an Environmental Impact Statement exemption and submitting the development application.
Weston Creek Community Council interim chair Bill Gemmell said the signs are there for future slippage should current budget pressures continue.
“As the events of Wednesday evening demonstrated, a couple of relatively minor traffic crashes showed us how the current arrangements have very little redundancy,” he said.
“Population growth will make the situation even more tentative. Many residents remain concerned there are limited emergency routes should a natural disaster, such as bushfire, require an evacuation.”
But Mr Steel said the timelines included in the Infrastructure Plan were indicative and he reassured the community the project had not faced any delays.
“The August 2020 budget update set aside $178 million for this project, including $2 million in 2020-2021 to undertake early design and planning works, which are well progressed,” he said.
“The next steps in the project include the preparation of tender documentation for the design and construct (D&C) tender and the undertaking of technical assessments.
“The procurement for a D&C contractor will commence later this year with industry consultation and an expression of interest process ahead of the contract being awarded next year, and construction commencing in 2023.”
Mr Steel said key project milestones achieved in the past 12 months include the signing of the Environmental Impact Statement exemption by the ACT Minister for Planning and Land Management in September 2020; approval of the development application in February 2021; and signing of the contract for enabling works in May 2021.
“As outlined in the ACT Infrastructure Plan, this project is a key priority that will provide a strategic transport corridor with dual carriageway, on-road cycle lanes, and an off-road shared path,” he said.
“The final alignment will include public transport priority, where possible, and be futureproofed for light rail.”
Mr Steel said it is a very large and complex infrastructure project being delivered within an important environmental corridor, and detailed technical and design work is essential to ensure it can be delivered effectively and efficiently.
“We understand the importance of the bridge to improving transport connectivity for the growing Molonglo community,” he said. “That’s why we are working hard to deliver this project as development expands to the northern end of the region and beyond by the middle of this decade.”
The Federal Government has committed $87.5 million to the project, which is part of the completion of John Gorton Drive, connecting the growing Molonglo Valley to Canberra City and Belconnen.