High hopes for bridge

• Could Freo’s old traffic bridge become a pedestrian and cyclist tourism mecca?

A NEW community group has emerged to try and convince the McGowan government to save Freo’s old traffic bridge and turn into a tourism mecca known as a “highline”.

Main Roads wants to demolish and replace the old bridge, saying it’s no longer safe, would be too expensive to fix and will be in the way of the replacement.

But Isadora Noble from the Save the Old Fremantle Bridge Alliance says the department is basing its decision on modelling that only considers a traffic bridge, not one dedicated to pedestrians.

Ms Noble says the group is already gathering a coterie of influential people including engineers, doctors and former politicians including former WA premier Carmen Lawrence to back their idea.

“We are proposing an alternative use that was actually proposed by Fremantle council in 2019, which was for a highline like the ones in New York, Paris and Melbourne,” Ms Noble said.

“It’s a winding pedestrian and cycle path that has a bridge as part of it, connects people to areas that have previously been under-utilised, and creates a flow where they are not disturbed by cars.”

Ms Noble said New York’s highline, created amidst great controversy in 2009, has since turned into the city’s greatest attraction, with its 6 million annual visitors surpassing event those going to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.

Converting the disused elevated rail into parkland didn’t come without a hefty price tag – $25 billion, but that was for 2.3 kilometres of track.

Ms Noble says highlines integrate significant heritage buildings, infrastructure and landscape into their designs, and she can see Perth’s version eventually linking Hillary’s Boat Harbour through to Woodman Point.

Dr Lawrence says the battle to save the heritage-listed bridge shouldn’t have been left just to the “beleaguered residents of North Fremantle” and the decision should have been broached with the entire state.

“It is an issue of significance for all Western Australians,” Dr Lawrence said.

“It is clear that this decision has not been made carefully, with proper weight being given to heritage and community amenity and long-sighted urban planning.”

One of the new alliance’s criticism of Main Roads decision is that it’s centred its designs around freight access into 

the port, yet the McGowan government has already committed to moving its functions to Kwinana.

Sorry record

Dr Lawrence said WA had a “sorry record” of heritage protection, particularly of its industrial past.

“Governments generally underestimate the importance of our heritage to our wellbeing, appearing not to understand the extent to which we are connected to and influenced by our social and physical environments, our cultural landscape.”

The highline concept has the enthusiastic support of Fremantle Society president John Dowson, who was at the alliance’s official launch on Thursday evening, as was mayoral candidate Marija Vujcic who said the highline concept was just the sort of innovative thinking she was hoping to attract to Fremantle.

by STEVE GRANT

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