Artist's impression of the City interchange for the proposed Canberra light rail. Photo: Supplied
The ACT Government says there will be no need for all of the road on Northbourne Avenue to be dug up to make way for the Capital Metro light rail, but construction work will be required at intersections.
A 2012 report prepared for the Government by consultants URS found the construction of light rail infrastructure in the Northbourne Avenue median strip would require the entire road to be excavated.
New power substations would also be required at two-kilometre intervals along the 12-kilometre route from Civic to Hibberson Street in Gungahlin.
When approached about the report’s findings on Thursday the government offered no comment.
But Territory and Municipal Services Minister and Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said on Friday that it had since been determined that light rail infrastructure could be installed with less significant road works.
"The advice that I very clearly have is that Northbourne Avenue will not need to be dug up," Mr Rattenbury said.
"It won’t require a wholesale removal of the road surface along Northbourne Avenue.
"There obviously will be construction works at intersections that will need to be done, but the government’s preferred option of using the median strip does not see the significant digging up of Northbourne Avenue as reported."
Mr Rattenbury said the construction work would cause some disruptions on Northbourne Avenue but traffic congestion would become worse without the installation of a light rail system.
"We don’t have a choice, we can’t do nothing for Northbourne Avenue," Mr Rattenbury said.
"Already there are problems with congestion on Northbourne Avenue. If the government was to do nothing, Northbourne Avenue would become even worse – more congested and less reliable."
Deputy Liberal Leader Alistair Coe said the government had committed without a sufficiently strong evidence base to demonstrate the project was appropriate.
"It seems that everything is in reverse," Mr Coe said.
"Firstly, they made a decision to go ahead with light rail. Only now are they starting to do some surveys and some studies.
"The studies they have done have been quite unreliable and haven’t gone into the detail that we think is required before you commit to such a project."
The first stage of the Capital Metro will see trams run along Northbourne Avenue, turn onto Flemington Road and terminate at Gungahlin. The initial cost estimate for the project was $316 million.
The government hopes the light rail will be among the territory’s first large public-private partnerships.
If the tramway is successful, links could eventually be built to other parts of Canberra.
The government is in the process of recruiting a project director for the Capital Metro.