Traffic changes across Canberra city as part of light rail development application

Traffic changes across Canberra city as part of light rail development application

Some of Canberra's busiest intersections will be closed for more than 50 hours at a time during light rail construction, and key city roads look set to be completely dug up and reconfigured.

Development applications lodged by the ACT government for the 12-kilometre route and a possible 3.2-kilometre extension to Russell show "highly critical" intersections, including at Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit, could be closed for as long as 54 hours in a row, likely between 10pm on Friday and 4am on Monday.

An artist's impression of the proposed Canberra light rail.

An artist's impression of the proposed Canberra light rail.

Other intersections considered less critical along the route could be closed for between two and four weeks at a time, if the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate gives approval.

Weekend-long closures will almost certainly impact intersections at the Federal Highway and Flemington Road; Constitution Avenue at London Circuit and Anzac Parade as well as Northbourne Avenue at the Barton Highway, Mouat Street, Antill Street, Macarthur Avenue, Wakefield Avenue, Barry Drive and Cooyong Street and Alinga Street.


The main route and Russell extension will see six major construction compounds in place for between three and four years. Vacant land on Flemington Road, between Kate Crace and Hamer streets, will house the Gungahlin work site while other compounds will be based outside Exhibition Park, on the site of the Canberra Visitor Centre and vacant land on Sandford Street Mitchell.

A Russell compound will replace temporary offices on Russell Drive. The controversial London Circuit compound is shown as taking up the entire car park opposite the Melbourne Building, but the government has already indicated only half of the site will be used.

Underground sewers and pipes will be dug up along London Circuit between Northbourne Avenue and Constitution Circuit, with mains sewers to be relocated along with power and communications connections. The work will see extended closures and diversions in the heart of the city.

After construction, London Circuit will become one lane in each direction for cars, while Constitution Avenue tracks will run next to a wide median.

Normal working hours on the light rail project will be from 7am until 6pm, Monday to Saturday. The workforce will peak at about 900 people, but the average number on site will be about 500.

New trams will be tested by manufacturers in Europe before being commissioned in Canberra. The government expects design finalisation will take six months, before an 18-month build. Delivery of the vehicles will take between six and eight weeks.

Testing will take place on sections on the new tracks from the Mitchell depot site. Once trams are commissioned, driver training and trials of timetables can begin. If as expected the government decides to go ahead with the Russell extension, an additional six trams will be required – bringing Canberra's new fleet to 20, all with wire-free capability for use inside National Capital Authority controlled areas.

"From Russell we would be perfectly placed to extend to other key parts of our city, including the airport, the parliamentary triangle and other destinations south of the lake," Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell said.

More than 18,000 square metres of top soil will be moved during construction, with about 95,000 square metres of concrete and 3900 ton of tracks. The project will use up 4.2 million litres of diesel.

Passenger stops will feature 30-metre platforms, some undercover areas and metal, concrete and glass construction.

The applications show compounds will be built for construction before site preparation works and cutting down of trees can begin. Pipes and wires will be moved, bus routes will be modified and work will begin on roads and drainage, all before track construction starts.

Once a clear corridor on a substantial part of the line is ready, work will begin on intersections, rail systems and passenger stops. Locations for public art installations will be considered.

The government expects to award contracts to an international consortium in April 2016, with construction on the main route due to be finished by December 2019. Dates for the Russell extension have not be finalised.

Members of the public have until November 18 to give feedback.

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for The Australian Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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