In a roundabout way….

ROY LEWISSON is a White Gum Valley resident who played a big part in changing Main Roads’ thinking on the High Street upgrade. In this week’s Thinking Allowed he takes a look at designs for Freo’s new traffic bridge.

AS well-informed Freo long-timers will know, there are plans and funding afoot to replace the old wooden traffic bridge at the eastern end of the harbour.

The biggest controversy relates to a cunning Main Roads’ plan for a ‘right turn only’ at the intersection of Canning Highway; no left turn onto Canning Highway when heading south.

However the plan becomes more cunning when you throw in a road going under the bridge, then joining back up with Canning Highway – somewhere – somehow. 

Feel free to roll your eyes and laugh out loud, as even Baldrick and Blackadder would struggle with the ‘Percyness’ of this plan.

If there is no left turn onto Canning Highway from the old bridge – and no right turn onto Canning Highway from the new bridge – how are the residents 

in Plympton Ward supposed to access their residences?

I also heard on the grapevine that the underpass road is to assist trucks transporting vehicles from the wharf (car carriers) – since East Street (from Beach Street) is too steep. 

Isn’t the current wharf operations on the south side of the harbour (Victoria Quay) being moved?

Let’s go back to 2003 – when 72 Freo residents came to the Maritime Museum to advise / consult / participate in a Main Roads’ workshop on the widening and realignment of High Street. 

It included the overhaul of the Stirling Highway/High Street intersection, where multiple containers had dislodged from trucks on the north-west corner.

Main Roads put forward a plan with the following criteria:

• giant curve with a set of traffic lights right in the middle;

• in the widest section the number of lanes went into double figures;

• took out a larger number of houses, larger area of the golf course and was significantly larger all round than the current result; and,

• removed all the existing trees along High Street. 

The 72 of us who’d given up our day came to consensus:

• nobody wanted the curve and the traffic lights; and,

• we wanted to keep as many trees as possible.

However the real travesty was that Main Roads stuck to this idiotic concept for another 15 years.

We continued to argue these two points and a third was added – we needed two underpasses to keep communities connected. 

Honestly, if we had a dollar for every meeting, workshop or consultation session we attended, I would be out of debt; it was dozens and dozens – year in, year out. 

And I use the word ‘consultation’ purposefully – as every time we raised the issues about the size of the radius, tree retention or the necessity of the underpasses, Main Roads reply was: “These issues are off the table … what colour paving would you like ?” 

Big brother – consultation – 101. 

I wonder if Main Roads can spell ‘participation’ – certainly ‘collaboration’ is a concept way too far away.

After 15 years we finally had a change of government, a new minister and a new project manager. 

With the relentless efforts of then-mayor Brad Pettitt and deputy mayor Ingrid Whaltham, who had been there from the start, we finally had a plan which:

• prevented trucks from losing containers by fixing the road’s camber;

• has to date ended traffic stoppages; the round-about allows traffic to flow;

• kept as many trees as possible, although Main Roads did their best to reduce the overall numbers;

• resulted in two pedestrian and cycling underpasses – very well used by all the local communities; and

• kept the construction footprint to a minimum.

The vast majority of these results were community derived.

If one is to be critical (and if you haven’t picked up on the tone of this correspondence by now, God may be able to help you) it must be constructive criticism.

So here you go Main Roads – my suggestion for the bridge, for which I will waive the consultation fee.

Like any dilemma – there are always three options:

• Take it. Take a leaf out of days gone by and take a look at this photo from the 1960s;

• Leave it. Just replicate the situation we currently have, moving it further west with a bit of a jiggle; or,

• Change it. Please see the conceptual sketch 

It is painfully obvious Main Roads has learnt little from High Street.

However the community at large has – what we have learnt is that ‘slip lanes’ work really in connection with roundabouts.

Please Main Roads – listen to the community. We drive through and live in these communities day in, day out. 

We know what will work and what won’t. We really would like to help. However please, please – do not repeat the ‘token consultationism’ we have suffered over the last 20 years. 

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