The Brisbane City Council made one of those strange decisions today where a majority of people supported something which I can only assume they know is a seriously bad idea.
The Council’s Civic Cabinet, which has a Labor majority, agreed today to support the Liberal Lord Mayor’s plan to build the Hale Street Bridge, which will increase the total number of cars on the road and funnel a whole heap of extra traffic down through an already congested South Brisbane area and straight alongside a major High School. Despite having a majority on Council, Labor has made a pledge not to oppose any of the Lord Mayor’s major projects, which puts them in this in-between position where they are locking Brisbane for decades to come into these excessively expensive, major greenhouse emitting, traffic increasing projects, whilst also trying not be held responsible for them.
They are keeping up this approach despite simultaneously expressing concerns about a potential $100 million Budget black hole due in part to blowouts in the cost of land resumptions for the first cross-river tunnel.
Letting the Bridge go ahead, with a few sops aimed at (no doubt unsuccessfully) placating the local community, seems a particularly bizarre decision given that just last week the Labor members of the Council passed a motion aimed at making Brisbane “the first Australian city to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change”. I’m not quite sure how spending millions of dollars to create infrastructure that will increase the number of cars on the road, and which will need to maintain high number of cars to pay all the tolls to cover the cost of the Bridge, is consistent with pledging to reduce greenhouse emissions, but I’m sure they can find a consultant who’s willing to be paid to say that it does.
The Hale Street Bridge is one of a number of major car encouraging projects being promoted with evangelical fervour by the Lord Mayor as the magic solution to traffic congestion. The Bridge has generated the strongest opposition – perhaps because it goes past the political active community of West End – but the 3 other tunnels planned are probably worse in their impacts.
Construction has just started on the first one, the North-South Bypass Tunnel, which is already more than 3 times more expensive than was promised at the election just 2 years ago, with the toll also to be much higher than was promised. Even the promise not to close any roads has already been broken, with the closure of the significant thoroughfare of Campbell St (which happens to run past the building where the Courier-Mail newspaper is based) already hampering traffic flows in the vicinity.
The NSBT will have big exhaust stacks spewing out unfiltered, concentrated emissions just beside the Gabba at one end and the Royal Brisbane Hospital at the other end. The next project is called the Airport Link tunnel (or underground toll road in the Council’s parlance), which ever so helpfully doesn’t exit at the Airport at all, but at the already overloaded East-West Arterial leading to the already overloaded Gateway Arterial roundabout, which leads to the Airport. The so-called Airport Link tunnel is also being pushed by the Queensland Labor government, which may also help explain why Labor at Council level are rolling over and letting this one happen too.
The Council’s own forecasts in their latest newsletter they have just sent around to households admits the tunnel would cause a 27% increase in the traffic on the East-West Arterial (and a staggering 51% increase in traffic on Stafford Rd), but then blithely says “forecast increases are within the capacity of these roads” – an extraordinary statement given that the Arterial is regularly at capacity and beyond already. I don’t envy the people who live on or near Stafford Rd either. I wonder how they feel about the promise that this project will “reduce traffic congestion in Brisbane’s northern suburbs” when the Council’s own figures say it will increase average traffic through their area enormously.
I don’t know how many times its been shown that just building more and more roads does not solve traffic congestion, yet politicians seem drawn to making the same (extraordinarily expensive) mistake over and over again. It seems there’s nothing so blind as blind faith. Pity it’s permanently harming my city along the way.
If you live in Brisbane and want to find out more about the issue, try one of more of the following:
- This Sunday (19th Nov) at 10am, there will be a one hour tour of the eastern end of Kalinga Park to look at what the impact at that end of the Airport Link tunnel will be. Meet at the model car track, right at the end of Diggers Drive (a local place with an interesting history of its own – ironically the name Kalinga apparently is derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning ‘belonging to us’, which it obviously no longer does);
- Attend a community meeting on Saturday Nov 25th at 3.30pm at Melrose Park off Roseleigh St, Wooloowin
- visit the Communities Against the Tunnels website or the Stop the Hale Street Bridge site;
- Look at the Airport Link website.