One of the nation’s most congested roads ‘forgotten’ as Perth races to fix traffic woes

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Updated July 11, 2019 09:03:44

Martin Bruce used to navigate 21 sets of traffic lights on his daily commute from Caversham to Osborne Park.

Key points:

  • Successive governments have touted congestion-busting projects for Perth
  • Residents in the city’s east are feeling the benefits of the billions being spent
  • But the pain persists in the inner suburbs where some residents feel forgotten

He has lived in the eastern suburb, about 17 kilometres from the CBD, for 16 years.

Mr Bruce said recent upgrades to the Tonkin and Reid Highways have slashed his travel time by nearly half.

“These days a good run is 22 minutes,” he said.

“But if we want to talk about bad runs, my worst run home was 50 minutes.”

Billions have been spent on congestion-busting projects at all levels of government, and there are currently 29 road projects underway in Perth and a number of others across regional WA.

The McGowan Government has put aside $4.2 billion for future road infrastructure and upgrades.

‘A whole lot less frustration’

Both residents and businesses in the city’s east are enjoying the fruits of the $1 billion NorthLink project, which has overhauled the Tonkin Highway in the north-east corridor and will eventually extend all the way to Muchea.

The project was initiated, with a mix of state and federal funding, by the former Barnett and Abbott governments.

And while transport experts say congestion can not be beaten by building more roads, some commuters have had a different experience.

Mr Bruce said heading to work was now a breeze.

“[NorthLink] is absolutely brilliant,” he said.

“You talk about the intersection of Reid Highway, well that was a horror intersection. Reid Highway and Tonkin Highway.

“It was a glorious day if you ever got a green light there, which for some reason I very rarely got a green light. These days, no lights — no red light, no green light, I’m straight through.

“A whole lot less frustration. The drive to work is just a whole lot better because I’m not sitting at a traffic light.”

Businesses benefit from easy run north

Tom Krutsky controls T&C Couriers’ fleet of vehicles, which comprises eight trucks, two vans and one ute.

Mr Krutsky said the newly opened NorthLink extension to Gnangara Road had led to quicker deliveries and helped combat driver frustration.

“It has gone all the way to Gnangara road, and from here in Kewdale to Wangara is now a half-hour trip,” he said.

“In fact, quicker. I’ve made it myself using the Tonkin [Highway], and it’s 25 minutes — I’m there, done.

“Which is absolutely fantastic. It means when someone asks us, or expects us to do a job, we’re not taking as long to get there.

“We’re there quicker and we can get out of the place quicker. And generally from a perspective point of view, getting there and then picking up and going is probably more important than it is to deliver, because it eases [the client’s] mind.

“So in that respect, because we’re getting there quicker to provide the service. That’s a bonus for us.

“We notice it, and that’s probably the most important thing, is that we know what’s going on.

Mr Krutsky said the GatewayWA project, linking Perth’s airport precinct, also played a valuable role in making deliveries more efficient.

“Getting in and out of the airports, both the domestic and international, is great,” he said.

“Because it used to be all controlled by sets of lights. Now you just drive into it and drive out of it.”

Congestion pain worsens closer to city

But those closer to the city are yet to see the benefits of the billions being poured into road infrastructure.

Many commuters call Stirling Highway a “nightmare”, while West Coast Highway and Marmion Avenue are hosting more than 30,000 vehicles per day.

And on the other side of the CBD, Orrong Road — which Infrastructure Australia identified would be one of the most congested roads in the country by 2031 — has left local residents in despair.

Main Roads data shows more than 65,000 vehicles travel on the road each weekday, and it is estimated that number will double to 100,000 by the year 2031.

And while the organisation acknowledges Orrong Road is at capacity and has developed a new expressway planning study, there is currently no funding or timeline attached to the concept.

That has led to residents feeling forgotten.

Hamid Hafid works as a school teacher in Joondalup but lives just off Orrong Road in Kewdale.

He said it was not originally designed for the current volume of traffic, and a normally 15-minute trip to the start of the Graham Farmer Freeway could sometimes take nearly half an hour.

“From the people who lived here before me, Orrong Road in the ’80s was almost like a small local road or a main avenue, but the expansion has been massive,” he said.

“And not to forget that Roe Highway has been built around it, Leach Highway has been upgraded, so everything has been designed to use Orrong Road, but Orrong Road has never changed.

“And as a result now this is what we have — we have an absolutely massive amount of traffic in a very highly densely populated area, with the impact that comes with that environmentally and so on.”

Suburban residents sick of being ‘ignored’

Mr Hafid said the traffic situation was now almost unbearable.

“If I was to leave here at 7:30am it would probably take me 22 to 25 minutes to get to the city,” he said.

“Orrong Road’s problem is that the people that live on Orrong Road have not found a way to voice their frustration.”

Main Roads recently released a design concept for an upgrade to Orrong Road, however there is currently no funding or timeline.

Mr Hafid said he was sceptical as to whether or not anything would change, but hoped it would.

“I think it’s a dream idea for us, but I think it is possible given the actual necessity of it. You cannot ignore Orrong Road if you are developing everything around it,” he said.

“So I don’t think it can be ignored. [There] may be some financial excuses but it has to be gotten on with.”

A Main Roads spokeswoman said the department had received support for the concept from the WA Planning Commission and would now consult further with the community.

“Outcomes from the consultation will assist Main Roads to identify the potential land requirements for the concept and will inform the Main Roads submission to the WA Planning Commission to reserve the land required in the Metropolitan Region Scheme,” she said.

“No funding, timeline or cost estimate is currently available for construction.

“Future construction, if feasible, would be subject to future funding from state and federal governments.”

Looking down the road

The State Government, with the help of the Commonwealth, is working on a number of projects that they dubbed “congestion busting”, aiming to cut travel times and relieve driver frustration.

One of the main pinch points on the Kwinana Freeway in Cockburn will be widened, and a new bridge constructed at Armadale Road.

Meanwhile, the WA Liberal Party would like to see the Roe 8 extension brought back to life.

Topics: road-transport, business-economics-and-finance, building-and-construction, community-and-society, perth-6000, wa

First posted July 11, 2019 07:22:06

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