6 June 2021

Steel pushes back on claims Molonglo Bridge construction delayed

| Ian Bushnell
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Artist's impression of dual carriageway bridge at Coppins Crossing

An artist’s impression of the dual carriageway bridge at Coppins Crossing, which will also be able to carry light rail. Image: ACT Government.

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.”

Map showing location of proposed Molonglo River Bridge

Map showing location of proposed Molonglo River Bridge. Image: Supplied.

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.

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“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.

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ChrisinTurner2:52 pm 08 Jun 21

A few years ago I attended a public lecture where an ACT Transport senior public servant explained the The Molonglo Valley was not designed to facilitate public transport. It was apparently also not designed to have supermarkets. What happened to our professional planners?

I have never understood why these developments have been allowed to happen before appropriate roads were in place. Did they learn absolutely nothing from Gungahlin? A single lane road in and out of a huge new residential region is ridiculous.

Lets not even get started on the travesty that has been allowed to occur at the new Ginninderry development, where ACTPLA has allowed developers to make arterial roads so narrow to cut costs that special busses and garbage trucks are required.

The lack of foresight of the ACT Government, coupled with being so desperate for cash from rates is pretty terrible. A couple of people trying to turn Canberra into Melbourne is very detrimental to the whole ACT. I have no idea how they keep getting voted back in. People say there’s not a viable alternative, but I’d say a house brick would be a better option. The other option certainly couldn’t do any worse.

Funnily enough when Molongolo was first being built there were people on this very forum having a good old whinge about what a waste it was for John Gorton drive through Wright and Coombs being built as a dual carriageway from day dot.

Goes to show no matter what is or isn’t done people will find something to have a whinge about.

As for the bridge sure it’s needed but for traffic levels between now and when it’s due to open Coppins crossing is still more than sufficient.

Oh as for Ginnindery just to set the record straight on one thing, the special buses have nothing what so ever to do with narrow roads. The special buses are being paid for by the developer to provide a service before the suburb is developed enough to justify full size buses.

And not sure what you are on about re narrow roads there. The main road through there (Pro Hart Ave) last time I drove on it was quite a substantial (single lane each way) divided road and the other roads no different to any other new suburb.

Biggest issue there is how the area connects to Drake Brockman drive. That needs making the same standard as Pro Hart Ave. Would be nice to have that now, but no issue waiting either.

It is galling that despite Chris Steel being one of the MLAs representing the Molonglo Valley, that he hasn’t done anything about the issues confronting the area. Traffic congestion; lack of facilities (including shops), poor public transport and crime (particularly hooning) are some of the issues that residents face. These problems spread into neighbouring areas, particularly Weston Creek. It’s well overdue for Mr Steel to stand up for his constituents. If he’s not prepared to do so, then he shouldn’t expect to be re-elected.

Well he is neck and neck with Mick Gentleman as the most useless politician we have ever had, so your surprise at this seems strange.

Mr Steel is far more concerned about locking up all cats and tracking all dogs of Canberra. He appears to be in no hurry to fix a major traffic problem that causes serious issues for the residents of the Molonglo Valley and Weston Creek because it will cost the gov’t so much.

How about concentrating on the Molonglo Valley, an area that you and your party cohorts were ever so keen to fast track to get residents in there (a money making bonanza for you) … an area that still lacks an appropriately sized shopping centre and is a major bottleneck for all these residents trying to commute to and from work each day. An area that negatively impacts of on the residents of nearby Weston Creek whose shopping centre is overrun each and every day because the MV residents have no local shopping centre.

Mr Steel, you showed promise when you were first voted. You once gave off the impression that you were actually listening to us. But with this latest decision, it’s clear that you really don’t care afterall.

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