Few will mourn the passing of the Woden bus interchange, an ageing uninviting bit of infrastructure that at the wrong time of the day could be the wrong place to be.
So news of a start on the new integrated transport interchange is exciting, linked as it is with the eventual extension of light rail to Woden, and something the government wanted to trumpet.
What Transport Minister Chris Steel was less keen to do was reveal just how many conditions the planning authority had placed on the project which reflected just how much had been neglected or not thought through.
The government has its reasons for opting for the linear design on Callam street as opposed to sticking with the current loop system that allows a reasonable flow of buses in and out of the interchange.
The new facility needed to also be a light rail station and the current interchange site was slotted for the new multi-storey CIT campus, despite its small footprint.
The result is that limiting the interchange to Callam Street brings with it a host of traffic challenges, which the project approval lays out and will require solutions, from bus scheduling to signal synchronisation to new traffic lights.
Major intersections, such as Hindmarsh Drive with Melrose Drive and Athllon Drive, that are already problematic will be under even more pressure, and what is not mentioned is that there are major high-rise construction projects planned on all sides of the Town Centre: Hindmarsh on the east, Geocon’s WOVA on the north and Zapari and Doma on the west.
The government also proposes a new throughway in and out of the Town Centre, created by connecting Bradley and Bowe Streets, that will become a new major collector road but also a shared space between the CIT and Woden Town Square.
This will divert vehicles from Callam around the CIT, past Grand Central Towers, which no doubt it will service, and out again. But it will sever the so-called pedestrian boulevard to the Town Square from the interchange.
Incidentally, the approval also highlights the need for better access between the pedestrian link and the Town Square, currently a concrete staircase and a lift.
The road proposal is out for consultation.
But there is one line in the approval about the interchange structures lacking protection from the elements that should be ringing alarm bells.
READ ALSO: Zed Seselja is the worst and that’s great
If there is one thing that deters people in Canberra catching buses or light rail it’s having to stand at stops without sufficient shelter, whether it is freezing mornings like we are experience now or the blisteringly hot summer days to come.
How a project like this gets to the DA stage with a design that may not offer protections from Canberra’s extreme weather is bewildering.
The planning authority also called out the inadequate tree plantings to cover the loss of many mature trees on Callum Street, something that, given the government’s own policies on urban vegetation, the urban forest and managing climate change, is also troubling.
There are also no public toilets, something that apparently can wait until the CIT is built.
This is an important piece of public infrastructure that the people of Woden, who will number in their many thousands by the time the Town Centre boom is over, and the commuters who will use it will have to live with for a long time.
This is the siting and design the government has settled on. It will need to get the project right.