FREMANTLE council needs to step up its leadership before Main Roads demolishes the city’s heritage-listed traffic bridge, says Fremantle Society president John Dowson.
Mr Dowson said the society had been pushing the council for months to get an independent engineering and heritage report into the bridge to show it could be retained.
He’s unhappy the department has contracted Element to handle the heritage aspects of the bridge replacement project.
“They used to be TPG, who the Fremantle Society had to fight tooth and nail against when they supported Notre Dame’s five-storey proposal, and the extra storeys on all those buildings in Henry, Phillimore and Pakenham Streets,” Mr Dowson said.
Fremantle council’s former heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera has also weighed in on the debate, saying a 19-metre “stump” Main Roads has said is all that can be retained of the old bridge would be expensive and “useless”.
Ms Kiera said Krakow, where she did her Masters in Architecture, had revamped its old bridge to handle only vehicles, while an attractive pedestrian bridge had been built alongside. This had helped to revitalise an industrial area and paved the way for an extra 50,000 residents.
“Both are not only extremely loved and popular,” she said of the paired bridges.
“It has proven to be a great strategic move based on sound strategic economic planning and value-based conservation of both [side’s] heritage.”
Ms Kiera said Fremantle had great examples where heritage had been an economic driver, saying the council’s restoration of the Moores Building and inclusion of a cafe had made it an income-generator which had paved the way for a raft of other eateries to set up in the precinct.
She’d reverse Krakow’s process and downgrade the existing bridge for pedestrian traffic, saying that would actually make a new traffic bridge cheaper to construct.
The society has asked transport minister Rita Saffioti to make the new bridge a 2029 bicentennial project so it can attract more funding and prestige – and some more thought.
But Ms Saffiotti’s special advisor Richard Farrell responded that was not possible.
“As a minimum, the rapidly deteriorating bridge deck needs to be repaired and replaced with a concrete and steel deck,” Mr Farrell said.
“However, these works would not address the sub-standard design of the structure, which has poor navigational clearances; the ongoing riverbed scour and the continued maintenance costs … would still be required.”
Mr Farrell says there’s not enough long and seasoned timber available to repair the bridge, while current bridge standards require barriers, piers and columns to be made of materials stronger than timber.
by STEVE GRANT