By TONY FOSTER*
THE design for a new Bridgewater Bridge must meet future needs and not just current-day demands.
As a vital link in the north-south network, Bridgewater needs a bridge that will meet Tasmania’s requirements, not just today, but for next 100 years.
Looking forward a century is the sort of vision and leadership that Tasmania requires, but sadly, leadership and a real vision for the future is lacking with the current proposal to replace the Bridgewater Bridge.In April last year, the State Government unveiled designs for a new four-lane bridge and said the State Government was preparing a case for Federal funding to meet the $535 million price tag. However, no funding was forthcoming in the most recent budget and the State Government is yet to announce a firm timetable for the replacement bridge or how it plans to secure the necessary funds.
A new Bridgewater Bridge has been described as the single biggest transport infrastructure project in Tasmania since the construction of the Tasman Bridge. Its impact will be felt, not only in Brighton which is experiencing considerable growth but also in the wider region that relies on the Bridgewater Bridge as a key north – south link.
The existing Bridge was built in the 1940s and requires urgent replacement because of the restrictions it places on vehicles travelling on the Midland Highway, our most important road freight corridor. Add to this the almost 20,000 vehicles that cross each day, traffic bottle-necks and other issues. The bridge is seriously out of date.
I mention that the design for the replacement needs to be visionary and cater for pedestrians, cyclists and proposals for light rail, as well as motor vehicle traffic, now and into the future.
Unfortunately, the current design proposal does not meet those needs and does not encapsulate any vision for the transport requirements for future generations.
In fact, the Bridge will most likely be out of date before it is built.
In short, we need a bridge that has a minimum four lanes – two in each direction and it must have a pathway for pedestrian traffic, a separate and separated bicycle path and provision for a light rail track. It should allow for ferries, yachts and other river traffic to pass through and navigate up to New Norfolk.
The proposal to leave the lift-span in place because of its so-called heritage value is ridiculous in the extreme and a clear demonstration of the lack of future vision. Leaving it in its current position and building adjacent to it is pure folly.
As an alternative to leaving it to block the river and further degrade, the lift-span can be dismantled and reassembled nearby should people want to appreciate its so-called heritage values.
A new bridge with the features I have outlined should be the priority and as well as providing for cars, trucks and other transport, people need to feel safe and secure walking or cycling over the river crossing.
It is critical the bridge design caters for light rail.
Light rail from the Hobart city to Bridgewater/Brighton should be the first stage and allow for further connections to be progressively developed.
As an aside, the University STEM proposal for the Hobart city centre is a great initiative and I am sure with a good transport system from Brighton and the Southern Midlands more of our young people would be encouraged to take up tertiary education. And while the STEM Centre is being designed, we should be taking the opportunity to construct an underground transport hub that can remove bus congestion from the Hobart Mall and inner-city streets.
But returning to the Bridgewater Bridge, infrastructure to benefit future generations should not be determined on a political whim to win votes today. It should come from a bi-partisan and visionary approach that may not even be apparent to current politicians. But should be to their expert advisers.
The ad hoc Midland Highway debacle is typical of political pork-barrelling rather than a design and upgrading program to meet the needs of future generations.
The replacement for the Bridgewater Bridge provides the opportunity for a fresh and dare I say, visionary approach from both the Labor and Liberal parties, so which ever party wins government at the next election provides the best solution. We have one opportunity and it’s vital that we get it right – not just for now, but for the next 100 years.