A BOLDER design from Main Roads that would replace the Fremantle Traffic Bridge with Australia’s first extradosed bridge has been widely applauded.
On Thursday the department released its fifth and “final” design for the new bridge, which will follow the same alignment as the old one and do away with the need to deviate Canning Highway along the riverfront or relocate Freo’s iconic Containbow entry statement.
But it is the end of the road for the 1953-built Fremantle Traffic Bridge, one of the few pieces of WA infrastructure to be given the state’s top heritage listing; Main Roads has flagged using its iconic timbers for “heritage interpretations” and preserving the 1850s limestone ferry capstan at its base.
A statement from the Cook government said community feedback prompted a rethink of designs released in August last year.
“The new design delivers on community aspirations for the bridge to be an iconic entry statement to Fremantle, and no longer proposes any changes to the existing road layout, which were opposed by the local community,” the statement said.
Opponents of the Canning Highway deviation had warned Fremantle would be losing its last riverbanks to concrete, while it would make access to the city from East Fremantle difficult.
Using the same route as the old bridge means the crossing will be closed for up to a year, but Main Roads says there were “positive lessons” from repairing the flood-damaged Fitzroy River Bridge which will speed things up.
It says it will provide more information for residents and businesses once project and delivery times have been established.
“Given progress in planning for Westport, the decision has been made to defer the rail bridge component of the project,” the release said.
Work could start in the second half of 2024.
Transport minister Rita Saffioti said there had been many different views on what should replace the old bridge since the project kicked off in 2019.
“Each change to the concept takes considerable time and effort, particularly when we’re dealing with such a constrained site, where small adjustments to any of the parameters can result in significant impacts to the overall outcome,” Ms Saffioti said.
“The key outcome of the Swan River Crossings project has always been to create a safe crossing over the river – the existing bridge has a high level of corrosion and rot and must be replaced.
“Replacing the bridge in the same position as the existing Fremantle Traffic Bridge and maintaining the existing road layout reflects community and stakeholder desires for a smaller construction footprint with minimal impact to the southern escarpment and the existing Queen Victoria Street and Canning Highway intersections.
“The design also delivers on the aspiration for a more iconic entry statement, and I am sure the new bridge in conjunction with the Containbow art installation delivers on that.”
Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said it was a “clever solution to what is a really difficult design problem”.
The bridge on the existing route had been ruled out during the earlier design period, but Ms Fitzhardinge said the extradosed method put it back on the table.
“From what I understand they looked at a new construction methodology that wasn’t previously considered and that opened up the possibility of doing this design because it meant the bridge can effectively be skinnier and you get a higher bridge.”
Ms Fitzhardinge said losing a major route into Fremantle for around 12 months was a “necessary evil” but the City would work with the state government and Main Roads on how that would be managed.
“I do remember back to when the train line close, and the innovative solution then was to put a ferry on that took all the commuters up to the city every morning and brought them back in the evening.
“So I think people can mode shift… maybe we’ll see more people stying in Freo to work,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.
by STEVE GRANT