Hoot or toot?

Premier Mark McGowan and colleagues at Monday’s announcement said the bridge alignment was courtesy of public support (left: photo supplied), but many locals aren’t that happy, including protesters who brightened up the launch with signs calling for the old bridge to be saved from demolition (right: photo by Steve Grant)

Locals scratching heads over bridge outcome

THE McGowan government has unveiled the alignment for Fremantle’s new traffic and passenger rail bridges, but it’s left many in the community wondering whether they had a win or not.

On Monday morning premier Mark McGowan was on hand as planning minister Rita Saffioti revealed the new bridges would go west of the existing one, which is to be demolished.

“The decision has been made that was the one that was most popularly supported through the community,” Ms Saffioti said. The minister said there had been 1000 responses to the four options released by Main Roads, with 67 per cent supporting the “preferred option”.

“The idea was to try and limit the impact of the new bridge on the surrounding areas, and that’s what this bridge does,” Ms Saffioti said.

She also described the bridge’s heritage listing as “questionable”, saying it was always intended to be a temporary structure.

Ms Saffioti said the new alignment would protect homes in Northbank from being close to bridge traffic.

Premier Mark McGowan said the old traffic bridge was on “life support” and the $230 million for the replacement and passenger rail would meet the needs of Fremantle and the western suburbs into the future.

“This bridge was built in 1939; it was meant to be here for 40 years and has now been here for twice as long as it was originally designed for,” Mr McGowan said.

But Save Old Fremantle Bridge, the North Fremantle Community Association, the Fremantle Society and Better Bridges Alliance aren’t buying the ‘locals win’ argument, saying Ms Saffioti is quoting from a single, flawed community poll.

“There was no option to select or suggest an alternative option, or space for general opposition comments,” said Isadora Noble from Save Old Fremantle Bridge, which is calling for the old bridge’s retention as a tourist-attracting ‘high line’ project.

Ms Noble says the government hasn’t yet sought the heritage council’s approval to demolish the old bridge.

“We heard yesterday there is a meeting of the heritage council late next week to specifically review the bridge,” Ms Noble said.

She called on Fremantle council to make a submission calling for the bridge’s retention, as it had previously done.

Acting mayor Andrew Sullivan said keeping the old bridge required “further discussion”.

“The retention of the old traffic bridge for pedestrians and cyclists and use as public space was put forward by the city in our Freo 2029: Transformational Moves strategy, and it’s something we’d support the state government exploring if it was technically and financially feasible,” Cr Sullivan said.

He said it should be funded and maintained by the state government as it was on their heritage register.

But the council generally welcomed the alignment, with Cr Sullivan saying it was pleasing concerns about Northbank residents had been taken into account.

“The new alignment is very similar to what the city proposed in our Freo 2029: Transformational Moves strategy and is the one the council selected as its preferred option back in June,” he said.

North Fremantle Community Organisation convenor Gerry MacGill said they wanted the project put on hold until the need was fully justified, and then the bridge should be pushed even further west.

“The minister claim this [option] has widespread community support, though this may only be because the other three were even worse,” he says of the alignment choices.

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