Derwent transport boost
Hobart’s much-loved River Derwent is in the spotlight with two major transport projects – a new bridge and commuter ferries – getting the go-ahead.
The southern capital is currently in the midst of an economic boom, and that comes with its own set of challenges including more cars on the roads, a problem being tackled head-on by both these projects.
A new bridge across the River Derwent at Bridgewater was Tasmania’s big ticket item in the May Federal Budget. In what will be one of the state’s biggest infrastructure spends, $461 million has been allocated to replace the 72-year-old crossing.
This bridge is a crucial north-south link, carrying 18,500 vehicles on average every day. It is also the gateway to Hobart connecting the Brooker and Midland highways.
Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher, calls the new bridge “an important project”.
He told ABC News: “Obviously it is an absolutely vital connection just to the north of Hobart and critical if you are travelling on the Midland Highway between Hobart and Launceston.
“An upgrade of the Bridgewater Bridge has been talked about for a long time, the Turnbull Government is now committing funding for that.”
Mr Fletcher said funding would be rolled out over a number of years, with the Federal Government contributing 80 per cent of the money and the State Government topping up the rest.
Tony Foster has been the local Brighton Mayor for 25 years, and during all those years he has been pushing hard for a replacement Bridgewater bridge.
The Mayor welcomed the budget announcement saying “the timing is right for the new bridge. It has a real chance of happening now, as the economy is as strong as it has ever been.”
As well as being critical for traffic flow on the Midland Highway, Mayor Foster also said a new bridge was vital for commuters as the Brighton residential corridor – which now stretches up to Kempton – was one of the fastest growing in the state.
He said more and more people were moving into the area in search of affordable housing, and a new bridge would help open up this area which is “where Hobart’s future growth lies”.
“Bridgewater needs a bridge that will meet Tasmania’s requirements, not just for today, but for the next hundred years.”
Meantime, it is not only a new bridge that is making news, but also new ferries.
When the Tasman bridge was cut in two by the Lake Illawarra in 1975, ferries became Hobart’s life-line.
Now, they are set to ply the River Derwent once more.
The State Government has just actioned a commuter ferry service between Bellerive, on Hobart’s eastern shore, and Sullivans Cove, which is just a short hop from the city centre. Two new ferry terminals will also be built.
Tasmania’s public bus company – Metro – has been earmarked to run this service and legislation has been tabled to get the ball rolling.
As he unveiled this plan, State Infrastructure Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced: “Tasmania’s economy is booming, and with a growing economy comes a need to manage road and infrastructure challenges, such as increased traffic flows.”
One person in total agreement is Hobart Lord Mayor, Ron Christie, who has been an enthusiast ferry champion for years: “This is all good news and welcomed by the city of Hobart,” he said.
“Ferries have been a long-time coming and the sooner that this happens the better, as cutting back on traffic coming into the CBD is a matter of urgency.”
As the Lord Mayor points out, 17,000 cars drive into the city every morning on the daily commute, with 6,000 of those making the journey across the Tasman Bridge.
He has no doubt that a ferry service would reduce those numbers but said it should be expanded to include additional stops. Something it seems, the Government already has on its agenda.
Minister Rockliff said: “Further public ferry infrastructure will be considered at other locations to be determined by passenger demand following the demonstrated success of the Hobart to Bellerive services.”
The only question now is: when?
No date has been set for the commencement of the ferry service. Nevertheless, with $2 million allocated for a scoping study, hopes are high it will be soon.
Image courtesy of ABC News
12 June 2018, Edition 195