Renewal or replacement of Fremantle Traffic Bridge is among the proposals Infrastructure Australia has listed as needing resolution within five years in its newly published priority list.
IA assesses projects for national significance and value, on economic principles, and provides all levels of government with a prioritised list of infrastructure challenges and opportunities.
The 2019 priority list was prepared using data from a 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit as well as submissions from governments, industry and communities.
Lack of action of several previous Western Australian governments in putting forward projects for appraisal had drawn criticism in previous years. But while it remains east coast-centric, WA is better represented this year, thanks both to increased engagement by the current state government with the process, and also in part to submissions from the South West Group.
The organisation formed by the Cockburn, East Fremantle, Fremantle, Kwinana, Melville and Rockingham councils had the council executives get together to identify priorities in June 2018, quantify them in a financial sense, and prepare submissions for IA.
They succeeded in getting one included on the list for the first time, as “a priority initiative”: the Canning Bridge crossing capacity and interchange, and also made a submission regarding the state government's Fremantle Traffic Bridge proposal.
Fremantle Traffic Bridge was also listed as a priority initiative.
IA found that without significant remedial maintenance – which would not extend the service life of the structure – closure would be required within the next five years, because of deterioration of critical timber components and scouring of the bridge supports.
It warned that closing the bridge without replacing it would substantially increase pressure on Stirling Bridge, which would worsen travel times and impact heavy freight road access to the port.
Options included renewing or replacing the existing bridge, or developing and improving alternative crossings and routes. It said the state government next needed to identify initiatives and develop options.
The list also noted Canning Bridge’s bus station was causing congestion, was difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to access, lacked drop-off facilities and toilets, and that improvements to accessibility and amenity would increase public transport use and reduce pressure on the roads. A proponent to take charge was yet to be identified.
The South West Group had brought these issues up in its submission regarding the Canning Bridge Activity centre, proposing a new southern bridge and purpose-built bus station.
“The South West Group is grateful to Infrastructure Australia for their diligence and rigour in assessing our submissions and for recognising that these are serious problems that negatively impact our community on a daily basis,” South West Group chief executive Tom Griffiths said.
"Fremantle Traffic Bridge has been a longstanding worry and it is great to see it recognised as a high priority issue.
“Similarly, the congestion at Canning Bridge is a major problem that costs tens of millions of dollars every year, lost productivity, and countless hours of people's lives stuck in traffic. We're glad to see it recognised by IA as a nationally significant problem and we look forward to working with the state government to develop sustainable and people-focused solutions.”
This year’s list features 121 infrastructure proposals of national significance – the highest number since the Priority List’s inception. The proposals are divided into “projects” and “initiatives”.
Projects are advanced proposals that have undergone a full business case assessment. The board positively assessed seven new business cases for the list over the past year. There are now:
- 8 High Priority Projects on the list (“address major problems or opportunities of national significance ... delivery of an effective solution is critical.”)
Of three new High Priority Projects, one WA case was included: the Metronet Yanchep rail line.
“Extending the rail line to this growth area would provide more transport choices for residents and reduce demand on the roads, particularly in the peak periods,” the report said.
- 10 Priority Projects
Of four new Priority Projects, one WA case was included: the Metronet Thornlie-Cockburn link.
“The project seeks to promote urban renewal along the line, relieve pressure on existing stations and reduce demand on roads,” the report said.
The Myalup-Wellington Water Project to address increased salinity in the Wellington Dam catchment and dam, and inefficiency in the water distribution network below, remains on the Priority Project list.
All three projects are expected to be delivered within the next five years.
Initiatives are proposals that potentially address a nationally significant problem or opportunity, but require further development and rigorous assessment. The timeframes given on these indicate when the problem or opportunity is likely to have "a material impact on our cities and regions".
Of 29 High Priority Initiatives, two were in WA, both congestion-related:
- Perth CBD to north corridor capacity (impact expected within five years, added to list in 2016)
"In the absence of additional capacity, the northern corridor is likely to become the most congested corridor in Perth, with demand expected to exceed capacity well before 2031. The  Audit estimated that delay costs on the corridor, including the Mitchell Freeway, Marmion Ave/West Coast Highway and Wanneroo Road, would reach $2 billion (2011 prices) by 2031."
IA noted that as well as the Yanchep line extension the government had commenced upgrades along Marmion Avenue and Wanneroo Road and was developing a business case for the proposed Mitchell Freeway extension to Romeo Road.
2. Mitchell and Kwinana freeways upgrade (impact expected within next 10 years, added to list in 2018)
"In the absence of additional capacity, the 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit projected that the Mitchell Freeway would become the most congested corridor in Australia, with demand expected to exceed capacity well before 2031," the report said.
The proposal was to implement Intelligent Transport System technologies to manage traffic flow on the Kwinana Freeway, maximising the existing capacity of the network and delaying the need for further large-scale investments in the corridor.
Of 74 Priority Initiatives, 11 were in WA.
Five were rated as likely to have impact in the near term:
- Armadale Road bridge (added 2018)
- Swan River crossing capacity (newly added 2019)
- Perth rail network capacity (added 2018)
- Improve road access to remote WA communities (added 2016)
- Land transport access between Karratha and Tom Price (newly added 2019)
Two were listed as likely to have impact in the medium term (5-10 years)
- Bunbury Outer Ring Road (added 2018)
- Perth Airport New Runway (added 2016)
Four were listed as longer term (10-15 years) or ‘various’ terms
- Transport connectivity between Morley and Ellenbrook (newly added 2019)
- Canning Bridge crossing capacity and interchange (added 2018)
- Perth container terminal capacity and land transport access (added 2016)
- Tonkin Highway corridor capacity (newly added 2019)
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the inclusion of more WA projects and initiatives was testament to the government's focus on Metronet and fixing congestion.
“While we expected IA to assess the Morley-Ellenbrook Line as a more urgent project, we expect its urgency will be upgraded as the Business Case process is finalised," she said.
“The Bayswater Station upgrade forms the first step for the Morley-Ellenbrook Line and construction begins late 2019.
“The more projects on this list, the better for WA. It helps the State Government’s requests to the Commonwealth to help fund local projects.
“I am also pleased to see the addition of Karratha-Tom Price Road as an initiative, which will strengthen our case in getting funding support from the Commonwealth to supplement the State Government’s $50 million contribution.
“I am disappointed the Albany Ring Road has been excluded again, however, the state government still has $35 million allocated and we will continue to pressure the federal government to put forward funding towards the project.”
RAC corporate affairs general manager Will Golsby welcomed the regional road safety issues highlighted in the report, and called for the governments and IA to prioritise the Albany Ring Road safety and congestion issues.