Hitting top Gear

Melville mayor George Gear dreams that one day people and greenery might fill this space, rather than cars. Photo by Steve Grant

Mayor to run again, with plans for Canning Hwy tunnel

MELVILLE mayor George Gear has announced he’ll run for a second term at October’s elections, with a vision of convincing the WA government to tunnel Canning Highway under the Swan River.

Mr Gear estimates that more than 90 per cent of the traffic snarling through Applecross during peak hour goes across Canning Bridge, so an underground bypass would calm the area and pave the way for a complete transformation.

He’s even flagged closing Canning Highway from Sleat Road down to the bridge.

“Local traffic could use Canning Highway up to Sleat Road, and all of this could be public open space to accommodate all of the infill that’s happened, and to make the place liveable,” Mr Gear told the Herald.

“Anybody who wanted to get to the train station, the buses could come down Kintail Road and drop them off.”

“They’re not making any more public open space, so if we can reclaim that area that would ease a lot of the crowding problems we’re now experiencing here at Canning Bridge.”

Mr Gear said he’d heard that already people were having to travel out of their suburb just to experience a decent bit of greenery around them.

He’d like to see Melville’s side of the tunnel emerge at Cunningham Street near Wireless Hill, with on and off ramps at Riseley and Reynolds Roads.

He says there’s enough room at the Cunningham intersection to cater for the tunnel opening without having any impact on Wireless Hill Park.

The mayor revealed that Main Roads recently approached the council with plans for a ‘duck and dive’ on Canning Highway in the bridge precinct.

“Duck and dive is kind of traffic at two different levels above ground.

“So we discussed that and we saw the video and all that; what it means is widening the road in places and resuming properties – it would have been totally disruptive.”

Main Roads proposed a similar duck and dive model for Charles Street but the plan was quickly withdrawn after howls of protests from locals.

Mr Gear said prior to the presentation he’d bumped into former WA transport minister Dean Nalder, who’d proposed tunneling the Perth Freight Link under Fremantle and onto its port, and said he became convinced tunnels were the way of the future.

“So I was sitting down having a beer at the Raffles one day and I was just looking at the old bridge; it’s been there since the 1940s and I remembered the duck and dive and I thought ‘well, why wouldn’t we’.

“Because the bridges are coming up [for replacement] – that one’s 70 years old.”

Mr Gear said the federal government had already promised $200 million to replace the bus interchange on the bridge across the Kwinana Freeway, while Main Roads’ duck and dive would have cost several hundred million dollars, and he believes these and any bridge replacement budget could form the start of a tunnel fund, as they’d no longer be needed under his plan.

The mayor will have a letter from the local government department hanging over his campaign, given it warned the council it was sliding towards dysfunction and wanted an action plan to lift its governance standards. But Mr Gear insists that other than the challenge of keeping a couple of councillors from poking their beaks in the admin’s business, the council was operating well.

“We welcome any concerns raised with us, whether they’re residents or the department, and we will always listen and respond positively,” he said.

“I always think criticism is a good thing; you learn from criticism. It’s when you do something wrong and no one tells you, that’s when I get worried.”


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