Funding gamble pays off

A GAMBLE by six southern councils to bypass the WA government and seek infrastructure funding directly from Canberra has paid off handsomely.

On Thursday, Infrastructure Australia released its annual priority list of national projects, with four put forward by the South West Group making the cut, including replacement of the ageing Fremantle Traffic Bridge in the next five years.

The SWG also convinced the federal bureaucrats to expand a McGowan government initiative to widen the Kwinana Freeway so that it includes the section between Russell and Thomas Roads.

Although inclusion on the priority list doesn’t guarantee funding, it’s widely accepted that without IA’s tick of approval projects have almost no hope of getting federal cash.

Another priority was an upgrade of the Canning Bridge interchange so buses stop blocking traffic on Canning Highway and the northern access ramp to the freeway, and better accessibility for pedestrians, although this might prove a curly one for the McGowan government.

It was listed as proponent for the other council-initiated projects following an approach from IA, but has refused to put its name to the Canning Bridge upgrade. That’s simply listed as an “Infrastructure Australia identified initiative” for the next 10-15 years.

South West Group director Tom Griffiths told the Herald they’d made eight submissions and only expected one or two to get support, so they were chuffed to hear that “four and a half” made it through.

Mr Griffiths says a handful of conference calls with IA staff had been incredibly helpful in preparing their list for the August deadline.

High priority

“The Fremantle Traffic Bridge has been a long-standing worry and it is great to see it recognised as a high priority,” he said.

Mr Griffiths said the traffic bridge was the only project that aligned with the state government’s own priority list.

He said a lot of work went into assessing lost productivity.

The SWG estimates that congestion on the Canning Highway/Stirling Bridge intersection costs $8 million annually, rising to $30m by 2036.

Canning Bridge congestion slugs the economy a staggering $59.7m every year, which is likely to rise to almost $70m by 2031.

The SWG also received support for upgrades to the Latitude 32 industrial site, which straddles Cockburn and Kwinana, to include a container terminal, extra rail and improved roads. It says regardless of whether an Outer Harbour goes ahead, these facilities would be needed anyway.

The South West Group has represented the councils of Fremantle, Melville, Cockburn, East Fremantle, Kwinana and Rockingham since 1983 and this current initiative is one of its biggest success stories.

by STEVE GRANT

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