21 August 2022

With years until the new bridge, we need a plan for Coppins Crossing

| Ian Bushnell
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Contractor clears debris from Coppins Crossing

A TCCS contractor clears debris from Coppins Crossing. Photo: TCCS.

It’s going to be a fractious time for motorists in Canberra’s west over the next few years until the Molonglo River Bridge is built.

Residents in the new areas of the Molonglo Valley – and the adjacent suburbs that had to deal with the flow-on effects – were given another taste of what can happen when flooding left the lowset, single-lane Coppins Crossing blocked with debris.

The breaking of the tenuous link sent morning traffic usually bound for Belconnen pouring into Cotter Road, choking intersections and making the Tuggeranong Parkway even more of a risky bet as a peak-hour commute, repeating for the return evening trip.

It left new Whitlam residents with children in school at Denman Prospect facing a long round trip.

Motorists who found their journey times and petrol bills blowing out were left exasperated when told it would take a couple of weeks to clear the debris from Coppins Crossing.

Fortunately, Transport Canberra and City Services was stung into action and announced the site’s reopening on Friday afternoon after an intensive clean-up.

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The question is what happens next, especially with the weather bureau warning of another wet spring and summer courtesy of a rare third La Nina event.

After long dry stretches, these recent seasons are testing the patience of Molonglo’s new residents – now numbering in their thousands – who look to the heavens with trepidation.

In days gone by, the closure of Coppins Crossing would only affect those who enjoyed the rural back run between Belconnen and Weston Creek but now there are major impacts to the road network, with 6000 motorists a day using the crossing.

There are growing pains enough for the Molonglo Valley as infrastructure struggles to keep up with the area’s burgeoning population but this only adds another layer of stress.

The new $175 million, four-lane bridge will provide a safe, speedy connection but it won’t be completed until at least 2025, according to the government.

There have been calls for better signage and warnings when the crossing is blocked, and some question why it takes a special contractor to be employed to clear the debris.

Simply doing nothing is an invitation to repeat performances of traffic chaos, frustrated residents and potential tragedies due to accidents or traffic jams.

TCCS should consider more protections for the Crossing to prevent the pile-up of debris, or even building a temporary higher crossing.

At the least it should have a rapid-response strategy to ensure debris can be cleared quickly to reduce the amount of time the Crossing is out of action.

The road network in coming years will face increasing strain as the construction of light-rail stage two gets underway, creating chaos in the southern approaches to the city.

Canberra does not need more peak-time pressures emanating from Molonglo due to a flooded or blocked Coppins Crossing.

It may place extra strain on the budget but the people of Molonglo will be grateful if the Government can find a remedy before the new bridge delivers that much sought-after reliable run.

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Maybe build the East West Connector to the Parkway before the bridge so there’s an alternative?

Roads first then houses problem solved

So true Rohan. It’s called infrastructure and it usually comes first.

Linda Seaniger3:36 pm 23 Aug 22

This article is about active travel between Whitlam and Denman prospect plus. the rest of the Molonglo Valley. ACT planning couldn’t even get this active travel right either. Including a foot bridge to nowhere rather than a bridge over the Molonglo river for traffic. I’m told the average vehicle traffic across the weir is around 6000 vehicles a day where is I’d say the footbridge averages one bike per day. Totally impractical bridge because you can’t even take a photograph of the river below because it’s made out of fine gauge steel which must’ve cost a fortune but residents have no bridge for their vehicle use. So we have an attempted at active travel in the middle of nowhere. I guess the weekend cyclist get facilities. Residents don’t.
https://canberra.bike/2020/02/25/active-travel-between-whitlam-and-denman-prospect/

Linda,
That’s because your “footbridge” is actually a sewer that they added a pedestrian crossing on top of.

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6041815/slender-new-butters-bridge-crosses-skinny-stretch-of-molonglo/

Linda Seaniger2:21 pm 22 Aug 22

This project cannot be delayed beyond 2025. It’s been promised for years. So start construction NOW. Coppins Crossing was suitable 40 years ago but it’s not fit for purpose with the development that has occur in the last 10 years. Perhaps we should hold land sales west of the city until such time as the bridge is completed. We could utilise the land off Majura Road because it already has the road infrastructure to cater for the increasing population.

Just design it as they go you reckon?

With Stage 2a about to create years of traffic nightmare for those living south of the city, why aren’t we surprised that the ACT Government hadn’t fast-tracked other infrastructure, such as a new Cotter bridge, to take some of the pressure off other roads?
Yes, the Cotter is only closed when we have heavy rain, but proper planning would have seen this infrastructure in place in conjunction with the first stages of development of the Molonglo Valley.

“TCCS should consider more protections for the Crossing to prevent the pile-up of debris, or even building a temporary higher crossing.”

What exactly would “more protections” look like? Particularly when we are talking about tens of thousands of litres of water running over the crossing every second in flood periods.

And another high level crossing? um, that would be the new bridge, how exactly are you going to build an appropriately designed and safe higher crossing without the same level of delay and cost as the full bridge?

“At the least it should have a rapid-response strategy to ensure debris can be cleared quickly to reduce the amount of time the Crossing is out of action.”

I think that’s exactly what TCCS think they have now. They aren’t going to have a contractor on the books just waiting for a low probability rainfall to occur. It’s always going to take a reasonable amount of time for the site to be safe and equipment mobilised.

The solution to the problem is the construction of the bridge. They’ve known it for years, time to crack on and get it done.

$175m is being invested to fix the problem. Not sure if its smart money to pour more into it to keep people happy for 3 years, for an occurrence that may happen a few more times.

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