Bridgewater Bridge replacement an imperative

 THE replacement of the Bridgewater Bridge is an imperative for Tasmania’s road and transport infrastructure, for the effective connection between the north and south of the State, as well as for the Brighton and surrounding community.

Writing in the Mercury newspaper, Brighton Mayor Tony Foster said while he could accept that the bridge replacement should not necessarily be included in the Hobart City Deal, the project was vital and should be implemented as a matter of high priority.

He was responding to calls from the Mayors of Hobart, Glenorchy and Kingborough, for the funding allocated to build a replacement Bridgewater Bridge to be diverted to fix traffic problems in their municipalities.

Mayor Foster said it was unfortunate that the three Mayors had questioned the spending on the Bridgewater Bridge replacement, as all this would do was provide the Commonwealth and State Governments with an excuse to renege on the project.

“The Mayors may be correct that the money allocated for the bridge could be spent on resolving traffic issues in Hobart, but it should not be an either / or situation.

“Like the spending on Australia’s bases in the Antarctic, the Bridgewater Bridge replacement should never have been included in the city deal.

“However, the Mayors who are now complaining, signed off on this deal without question.”

Cr Foster said the reality was that Hobart’s traffic problems could be eased in part immediately if the Hobart City Council removed parking meters from Davey and Macquarie Streets, providing an extra vehicle lane into and out of the city.

“But no, the Lord Mayor would rather see money taken from a long-standing promised project, than remove a few hundred parking meters and forego their revenue.

“Fortunately, both Liberal Senator Eric Abetz and State Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson rejected the city Mayors protestations and confirmed that the Bridgewater Bridge commitment remained in place and would be delivered.

“A new Bridgewater Bridge has been promised by successive Governments at successive elections, but now we have an Infrastructure Australia report that claims it does not represent value for money.

“But the comments by the three Mayors are unwelcome.

“The upshot might be that we get a small amount of funding to address city traffic issues and not much more.”

Cr Foster said a far better option would be to seek more funding to make the Hobart City Deal a worthwhile document that actually addresses key issues confronting Hobart, rather than simply taking money from projects that have already been promised and that are imperative for the State’s economic and community development.

“Indicative plans have been drawn, costs estimated and even funds allocated in State and Federal budgets. A firm timetable for construction must be established and announced, enabling construction to commence, not sometime in the distant future, but in the next few months.

“As the Infrastructure Australia assessment has pointed out, the replacement for the 70-year-old bridge that is the primary freight link between Hobart and the rest of the world. It is vital and is a project worthy of its place on the national priority list.

“Not only is it expected to reach its carrying capacity within 20 years, but it is already well past its use-by date in terms of its engineering.

“Adding further emphasis, the Brighton Municipality and the surrounding region is recognised as a major growth corridor for southern Tasmania and a replacement bridge is required to encourage and service this growth.

“All sorts of excuses can be made, but there is absolutely no reason why this key political promise cannot be honoured in full and implementation commence immediately,” Cr Foster said.