Road Revolution?

Article in Post Newspaper – Morgan’s bold road revolution

A highway along the Perth-Fremantle railway line would be better than widening Stirling Highway and resuming 25ha of houses, local mayors were told last week.

All six western suburbs mayors decided to take the idea back to their councils with a view to jointly funding a feasibility study.

The idea, put forward by Cottesloe mayor Kevin Morgan at a Western Suburbs Regional Organisation Councils (WESROC) meeting last week, would see a highway atop a sunken railway with a cycleway, high-density housing built on spare land, and green space. Stirling Highway widening, at least 20 years away, may then not have to happen. It would accommodate local traffic only.

The Perth-Fremantle rail reserve has 680,000sq.m of available land, according to a local engineer.Surplus land could be developed with high-density housing as an alternative to demolishing established suburbs under the government transport-oriented development plan, Mr Morgan said.

The east-west road would probably have to terminate at Aberdare Road because the Subi Centro development had already removed the option of going to the city, but it would serve the university and the QEII medical centre, relieving the pressure on Stirling Highway.

There was some urgency because the north-east Claremont precinct would have to be altered for the corridor to work.

Mr Morgan said that even if the railway was sunk, no building should be permitted on top to leave future transport options open.

Mr Morgan said urgent action was also needed to address the school traffic problem in Claremont. Dedicated bus services with secure bus and train stops to keep students separate from the non-student population was one option to be discussed by local mayors.

The government advertised the plan to widen Stirling Highway this week. It would mean resuming and buying private land but keeping the highway at four lanes, with fewer obstructions. A median strip, right-turn lanes, bus “jump” lanes, cycle lanes and a better pedestrian environment were part of the plan.

Planning Minister John Day said there was no funding for the long-term plan, which was 20 years away.

It would mean removing the road reserve from a number of private properties at the Cottesloe end of the highway and create certainty for those owners. The reserve line goes through the middle of Premier Colin Barnett’s house.

Building heights along the reserve would be graded so that the highest buildings would be at the centre and the outer edges would match the heights of adjoining buildings.

COMMENT

 A classic solution based on a number of assumptions.

 The first assumption is that the construction of this road would reduce the traffic volumes on the Stirling Highway. The road is proposed to be on the railway reserve, presumably starting from an enlarged Curtin Avenue, through Swanbourne shopping centre, past Claremont Quarter and on to Aberdare Road. This would mean that unless cross streets such as Eric Street, Stirling Road, Leura Avenue and Loch Street are enlarged to both feed traffic on to and  draw traffic away from Stirling Highway, the only section of the Stirling Highway that would potentially benefit would be between Cottesloe and Fremantle.

 The second assumption would seem to be that traffic along the Stirling Highway is predominately ‘through’ traffic – that is travelling more than half the length of the Highway between Perth and Fremantle.  If one examines the traffic counts along the highway allowing for traffic turning off and on to, the actual volume of traffic that travels the total length is slightly over 10% indicating that the predominate use of the Stirling Highway is for locally based traffic.

 The third assumption is that residents of Swanbourne Crescent and Aberdare Road are going to be content to see their properties resumed as an alternative to the resumption of properties in currently gazetted Stirling Highway road reserves.

The fourth assumption is that in 20 years time there will be some cheap alternative to petrol, which by then is likely to be too expensive to use in private motor vehicles.

It is generally acknowledged today is that building more roads will not solve the problem of traffic congestion.  Traffic volumes simply expand to fill the road space available, primarily because it simply increases the potential to travel.  A true ‘revolution’ would be to find way to encourage people to use alternative forms of transport or to use the existing road system more effectively or travel more effectively.

For example anyone who uses the Stirling Highway knows that in school holiday periods there is negligible traffic congestion on the Stirling Highway, so instead of building more roads, ban parents from driving their children to school and create a dedicated bus service (which I acknowledge does get a mention in the article) – and not just parents, ban students from driving too.

Create cycling and walking facilities so that parents feel confident enough to allow their children to cycle/walk to school, to the shops, to their friends and that also encourage adults to ride and walk more.

Encourage motorists to be more considerate in our use of motor vehicles, and to drive with more consideration to other road users.

 The reality is that no one likes the current traffic congestion, (although by European standards our views of traffic congestion are laughable), however what is currently being proposed by the Mayor of Cottesloe is actually not a ‘bold road revolution’ more a back to the sixties idea.

About Peter Bartlett