Tit-for-tat bridge plans

Rebecca Clarkson says Main Roads won’t have a social licence to build a new bridge across the Swan River if it doesn’t engage properly with the community. Photo by Steve Grant

‘I think it’s fair to say that there wasn’t one suggestion we took to those meetings that they included’ – Brad Pettitt

FREMANTLE council will engage its own engineer to convince Main Roads there’s more than one way to cross the Swan River, says mayor Brad Pettitt.

Dr Pettitt told the Herald he and CEO Philip St John attended briefings with the department over a replacement for the 80-year-old Fremantle Traffic Bridge, but didn’t see any compelling evidence to suggest there was just one feasible route.

The mayor says the pair’s experience also mirrors the complaint of the growing list of groups opposing the Covid-stimulated bridge; that Main Roads left the community out of key decisions.

“I think it’s fair to say that there wasn’t one suggestion we took to those meetings that they included,” Dr Pettitt said.

Dr Pettitt will be one of the speakers at a rally against the bridge design next Thursday being organised by new protest group Our Bridge, Our Place, Our Choice.

Organiser Rebecca Clarkson created a petition two months ago calling for the new bridge to be built downstream of the one proposed. Since the plans hit the headlines its picked up pace and is almost at 3,000 signatures.

“We don’t want to be asked what colours to paint it,” Ms Clarkson said.

She’s expecting at least 150 people at the meeting, which will also feature sustainable transport guru Peter Newman, who had lobbied for years to get the bridge on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list but says now he’s not thrilled by the outcome.

Ms Clarkson said an alliance of several groups opposed to Main Roads’ plans had formed, including the Fremantle Society and the North Fremantle Collective, although they all came with “different perspectives”.

“But we all united by the idea that this is our space and we have been sidelined by Main Roads.

Social licence

“They need to start again and re-engage with the community, or they are not going to have the social licence to start building.”

Ms Clarkson said she attended Main Roads’ recent drop-in sessions and said it was “very slick” and they’d worked hard to be “on-message”.

“It made my blood boil a bit, because a reference group is not just the bureaucrats,” she said.

Ms Clarkson said the department appeared to be taking a “design and defend” approach to the bridge.

She said members of the alliance had been blocked from getting reports into the integrity of the existing bridge, with the department arguing it could jeopardise its tender processes.

Main Roads reportedly met contractors and consultants interested in bidding for the demolition of the existing bridge two weeks ago.

Prof Newman  was concerned the initial plans included his suggestion for a “barrage” to protect the river upstream if there was a major storm surge. The barrage is a gate rising from the river floor to block any surge, and he says they’re common in major cities because of climate change.

“Otherwise you have to have walls all the way up the river, all along the Kwinana Freeway,” Prof Newman said.

The Better Bridge meeting is at the Fremantle Town Hall on Thursday September 10 from 

6-7.30pm.

By Steve Grant

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