Years of traffic chaos on the way as light rail construction nears

Ian Bushnell 21 July 2021 93
Light rail render

The first major works will be the raising of London Circuit to meet Commonwealth Avenue, as seen here in this artist’s impression. Image: ACT Government.

Commuters have been warned to prepare for years of disruption on the southern gateway to the city as work ramps up on building light rail to Woden.

The ACT Government says they face years of lane closures on Commonwealth Avenue and traffic diversions to other main roads such as Parkes Way and Kings Avenue.

It says constructing the first leg of the light rail extension to Commonwealth Park via City West will disrupt traffic to and in the city centre for up to four years, with the first major works to get underway from the second quarter of next year.


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Commonwealth Avenue, which carries 55,000 vehicles a day, may only carry about a fifth of the normal peak volumes, dropping from 5,200 vehicles per hour to as low as 1,100 vehicles per hour.

Kings Avenue could carry more than 20 per cent more traffic in the morning and afternoon peaks, while Parkes Way between Kings Avenue and the City could be up more than 45 per cent in the morning and almost 60 per cent in the afternoon.

But the government would like to see as many people as possible use the extra buses that will be on call or change their travel times to thin out the number of people using the roads during peak times.

Light rail map

Map of light rail road closures. Image: ACT Government.

Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel has formed a Disruption Taskforce to manage the traffic upheaval, bringing together expertise from across government in road and public transport network planning, behaviour change, community engagement and communications to plan for the multi-year build.

The Taskforce will look at infrastructure improvements to support traffic flow such as intersection and road improvements, encouraging changes in routes and travel times to spread peak congestion and providing more public transport and active travel options, including more bus services on relevant routes.

Mr Steel said commuters would be advised almost daily of the best travel routes and times through digital channels and on-road, real-time variable message boards.

“Construction at the southern end of the CBD will mainly impact those coming from the southside into the City, but there will be flow-on impacts across the road network,” Mr Steel said.

For example, traffic on the Monaro Highway may increase 46 per cent during the morning peak.

Mr Steel said he had written to major employers such as the Commonwealth departments in the Parliamentary Triangle about flexible working hours and later starting times to help minimise the number of vehicles on the road during the morning and afternoon peaks.

Canberrans can also expect an update to the bus timetable to accommodate route changes and extra services.


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The first major works of the next stage of light rail involve raising London Circuit to provide an at-grade intersection with Commonwealth Avenue, but minor works are expected to commence in a few weeks and the first site compounds will be installed next month.

Raising London Circuit will involve the demolition of the cloverleaf ramps and overpasses and result in road closures, including London Circuit.

Mr Steel has ruled out compensation for businesses affected along the route but said the government would be working with them to minimise disruption and help them navigate the construction period.

He said the government was committed to getting on with light rail, which was necessary to avoid even worse congestion in the years to come as Canberra grows.

“The whole reason we’re building light rail is to try to bust congestion and provide a more sustainable and better-connected city so that we don’t grow into a city like Melbourne and Sydney that have significant congestion problems,” he told the ABC.

The government will provide more details about its traffic disruption alleviation measures over the coming months.

A map of future works and road closures is available on the Light rail to Woden website.

Stage 2B to Woden through the Parliamentary Triangle is still working its way through the multi-level approvals process.


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93 Responses to Years of traffic chaos on the way as light rail construction nears
Chris Chris 5:12 pm 24 Jul 21

Welcome to the 19th century Canberra….by the time this ancient mode of transport is built to Tuggeranong the world will be utilizing self driving electric busses making this billions of antiquated infrastructure…. Way to go

    JC JC 9:18 am 25 Jul 21

    19th century? Sure sure. If you want to call today’s trans 19th century then you would need to call an electric bus 19th century too after all buses were around then too.

    And you would also need to include cars in that as well, the favoured vehicle in Canberra. They too came out in the 19th century too.

    And I don’t share your view that self driving electric buses are coming to the streets on mass anytime soon.

    You only need to look at the attitudes many around here have to electric to see the issue, would be far worse to get self driving virtue signalling past them too.

    And whilst the technology is here there is a difference between having it and getting it developed to an extent that it is safe to use especially in a change over period where it will need to share roads with humans.

geecee geecee 7:22 pm 22 Jul 21

To all the Canberrans who voted Labour and the Greens, please enjoy your traffic chaos because this is what you voted for!

Oiledpengu Oiledpengu 7:22 pm 22 Jul 21

This is going to be chaos. I’m glad I won’t be commuting onto London cct any longer. And why oh why is there traffic lights outside the British Embassy? If not it would be no stops Woden to North side of the lake.

purplevh purplevh 9:17 pm 21 Jul 21

I’m still wondering what warped sense of logic thinks that doing away with an overpass and replacing it with yet another set of traffic lights is a good idea.

FFS we need less traffic lights and more overpass intersections as the city grows.

Start thinking about how to imrove traffic flow not stifle it.

    JS9 JS9 8:38 pm 22 Jul 21

    The warped logic is they want to develop on the clover leaf road site to the left (if your heading north). Absolutely nailed on. That is all its about.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:13 am 23 Jul 21

    JS9,
    The development of the clover leaves is one of the only smart things about this project. They are a massive and inefficient waste of inner city land, when an at grade intersection makes far more sense.

    JS9 JS9 12:33 pm 23 Jul 21

    Surely that outcome could have been achieved without the need for an at grade intersection however Chewy?

    An at grade intersection certainly doesn’t make sense from a perspective of reducing tram travel times (but then again when you look at the route chosen, then that isn’t very high on the list!), or indeed travel times for drivers or traffic management. It only stacks up if the primary objective is solely developing that site – happy to admit I’m no traffic planner, but I’m sure there could of been other ways to achieve that outcome without an at grade intersection being part of the mix?

    It certainly doesn’t make sense from a broader cost/benefit perspective imho, but we all know that hasn’t been a thought in the Government’s mind from the start (and that’s coming from someone that isn’t necessarily against light rail as a form of public transport ha!)

    chewy14 chewy14 2:22 pm 23 Jul 21

    JS9,
    London Circuit is not a major thoroughfare though where there is masses of traffic that needs to go from the West of the City to the East or vice versa. It’s main function at that point is connection to Commonwealth Avenue.

    If they did the same to Parkes Way for instance it would be a massive stuffup due to the traffic patterns.

    And those clover leaves are a massive waste of space that rightly should be developed, with a better road layout.

    Having an intersection there will allow better connection between London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue (assuming its done properly). No doubt there will be some delays at this intersection but I think it’s potentially worth it because of the growth in the area it will promote.

    Although you’re right in that it would be interesting to see what type of financial modelling had been done to assess the viability of the proposal. Probably not much.

    JC JC 4:18 pm 23 Jul 21

    Actually I would say the sims have been well and truely done on the clover leaf and the sale of land freed will more than make up for the cost of the works.

    And agree this will not have a major traffic impact long term. Obviously during construction it will. And in some ways it may help traffic flows to/from city west in particular and help reduce turning traffic at the current London Cct/Northborne Ave intersection. Plus make it look more like burley griffins original plan that many laud all the time.

    JS9 JS9 5:37 pm 23 Jul 21

    Definitely agree there are definitely better options for the road layout in the area then what is currently there – just not sure the chosen design is the best way to do it, but anyway!

    I’m sure the financial modelling probably went as far as – $ we can get from selling land -> is it more than cost to remodel intersection? Yes – deal. That would be about it – in about that length too knowing how ‘robust’ some of the other financial modelling more generally has been in recent years by the ACT Government.

    Oiledpengu Oiledpengu 3:05 pm 25 Jul 21

    Check out the Molonglo Valley for traffic light chaos. Terrible planning

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 5:39 pm 21 Jul 21

“The whole reason we’re building light rail is to try to bust congestion and provide a more sustainable and better-connected city so that we don’t grow into a city like Melbourne and Sydney that have significant congestion problems,”

Slightly less of a joke if gutting bus services wasn’t part of paying for this idiocy, but the best congestion buster for Canberra will be what the Delta and subsequent variants of the virus do to the Australian economy, the Australian federation and federal government debt levels.

    JC JC 4:44 pm 23 Jul 21

    Still cannot believe that the line bus services are being gutted to pay for light rail is still being trotted out.

    When stage 1 open buses services were increased and no bus money went to light rail. Of course we could debate that the bus services didn’t meet expectations but doesn’t change the fact light rail freed up buses that are being used elsewhere.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 12:05 pm 25 Jul 21

    You’re right JC. There actually was ‘extra’ money for Buses when Light Rail started, but as we know, on the same day as Light Rail started they removed over 700 bus stops and made commutes much slower for many Canberrans. I can understand why people think there’s less money, but the problem was a terrible re-design and removal of bus routes not a reduction in money.

    JC JC 2:33 pm 25 Jul 21

    Yep. They also made the commute faster for many too.

    But as is said whether the new bus network meets the requirements/demands of the people is a seperate issue. Main point no money was pulled from the buses to pay for light rail which is an often touted view. When in fact more money was put in to expand the fleet by about 20 buses and a similar number was freed by lightrail for use elsewhere.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 4:16 pm 25 Jul 21

    When you say they made the bus “faster for many”, you really mean less than half. They made the peak hour commute slower for way more than half of Tuggeranong and West Belco residents. And those people voted with their feet. Outrageous bus design decision to benefit some at the expense of many others. .No one should have had their bus commuting time double, but many did.

Paul Russell Paul Russell 5:21 pm 21 Jul 21

I now only visit Civic once every 2-3 weeks. It use to be 1-2 times a week, traffic congestion, traffic lights, parking fees, time limits, bike lanes, trams…all too hard. I feel very sorry for the business owners, cafes, restaurants and professionals who have offices in Civic.
As Jim Murphy use to say…Enjoy the good times! They have long left Civic and we won’t be back anytime soon!

John Kerry Tozer John Kerry Tozer 4:03 pm 21 Jul 21

Do you think you could let us know how you are going to get this thing across the Lake any time soon?

Ian_Red Ian_Red 3:20 pm 21 Jul 21

I know ACT Govt says they have a mandate, but not about the details. Underground station at city hill (going underground between the Sydney & Melbourne buildings). Straight on to Woden. In the long term a much better route for city commuters…

    Heavs Heavs 4:48 pm 23 Jul 21

    Definitely cheaper and less chaos to tunnel through rock. Good thinking.

nobody nobody 2:25 pm 21 Jul 21

The route should be straight from Northbourne Avenue, through the middle of City Hill, then straight onto Commonwealth Avenue. This would be less fuss, disruption, cost, construction time, and less congestion once the trams are up and running.

Someonesmother Someonesmother 1:41 pm 21 Jul 21

Yeah, No. People are not going to stagger their working hours to suit some random thought bubble that gov decided was a good idea. It will 55k cars every day no change. So ACT Gov better find another way of making this work. Glad I don’t work in civic, but it is starting in Woden too and it is already a dog’s breakfast there, so this should make for some road rage to the power of a million. Only developers like geocon really want the light rail but now everyone has to suffer.

privatepublic privatepublic 1:18 pm 21 Jul 21

A big ask of business and government to stagger working hours. LT may be important to some, however other business takes precedence.

Phil Place Phil Place 11:26 am 21 Jul 21

This will be an unmitigated disaster from beginning to end. Parkes Way will be a 10km long car park as will Cotter Road and Yarra Glen. This whole idea should never have made it past the “thought bubble” stage. I feel very sorry for anyone who works in the city or the triangle. And what will it accomplish that electric buses and the ALREADY IN EXISTENCE dedicated bus lanes can’t? More Green idealogical bulldust dressed up as a “requirement”.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:39 am 21 Jul 21

    It wouldn’t have happened if Zed had won that last ACT Legislative Assembly election he contested. Instead we got what the majority voted for so suck it up.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 8:49 am 22 Jul 21

    Just goes to show how Zed was (is) even more unpopular than the tram to ACT voters – and given the lack of support for the tram that pretty much sums up why he went Federal where 3% of voters (plus over 30% or so of lemmings) will bring success.

    chewy14 chewy14 9:26 am 22 Jul 21

    Grumpymark,
    I know you don’t like Zed but to be fair, Zed was an extremely popular Liberal opposition leader and got them closer to government than successive Liberal attempts in what is clearly an uphill challenge.

    In that 2012 election, he gained nearly 2 quotas by himself on first preferences which is hardly the numbers of someone who is unpopular.

    JS9 JS9 9:15 am 22 Jul 21

    We’d just be stuck with his stupid uber conservative views on a whole bunch of other crap instead.

JS9 JS9 11:22 am 21 Jul 21

The raising of London Circuit to ‘cough cough’ allow for light rail (When in reality its just about developing the cloverleaf space) is an absolute joke. Will make traffic congestion during construction 10x worse and for no clear public net benefit.

    purplevh purplevh 9:21 pm 21 Jul 21

    That explains why some numpty thinks its a good idea to replace a working overpass with yet more traffic lights.

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