Fremantle Traffic Bridge: What Options will be Presented to the Community?
14 April 2023
I’ve got an awful prediction about the Fremantle Traffic Bridge, that I hope by making it public will make it not come true.
In the coming weeks, Main Roads and the Bridge Alliance after months of silence and almost no communication with the public or the Fremantle and East Fremantle Councils will release their next iteration of the bridge design that will replace the old heritage-listed bridge with a dull new concrete bridge. But that’s not the worst part.
After the pushback on their most recent “highway on the river foreshore” design, my prediction is that the community will be given two or three terrible options and one that’s merely bad.
Here are the options I am hearing what might make the shortlist:
Option 1 – The new bridge is to be moved back to the East side of the existing bridge. This means it will be hard up against North Fremantle apartments and built over the last green space on the south side of the river. The WA Government backed down on this terrible idea in 2021 after community opposition but it is now potentially back on the table.
Option 2 – Close the old Fremantle Traffic bridge with no functioning replacement for at least 12 months. This is so the new bridge can be constructed over part of the old bridge’s current footprint. The result will be traffic chaos. The only way to get into the Fremantle CBD from the north of the river will be along Stirling Hwy and then down High Street as it reduces to 40km/h and a single lane. This closure, terrible traffic congestion, and loss of visitations will be devastating for many Fremantle businesses.
Option 3 – Main Roads will require a giant flared intersection where Canning Hwy meets with Queen Victoria Street. This huge 8-10 lane wide intersection will be built directly in front of the Navy Store, meaning it will have to forgo its much-needed forecourt. The Navy store will now be hidden below large retaining walls built for the raised road. This option will also mean even poorer pedestrian access from Cantonment Hill and Tuckfield Oval to the river than there is now.
Option 4 – go back to Main Roads’ previously preferred option of “highway on the river foreshore” design which diverts Canning Hwy down to the river foreshore and under the new bridge. Main Roads wanted this option last year but failed to get Fremantle or East Fremantle Council and community support for it. This is because it wipes out most of the riverside cliffs and trees and also makes access to a big chunk of East Fremantle extremely difficult. But Main Roads will be hoping that everyone agrees it is better than Options 1, 2 and 3 above!
Putting forward two or three terrible options and one merely bad option is straight out of the Yes Minister playbook, but the truth is that there is another better option that almost everyone, but Main Roads, supports.
This better option would build the new bridge to the West of the existing bridge as previously agreed and leave the road network largely as it is currently but with the potential to traffic calm Canning Hwy with it narrowed to one lane in each direction with clearer pedestrian crossings and paths down to the river.
This better – and cheaper option – would see the cliffs, trees, and parkland retained. It would enable a small forecourt to the Navy Store and better connections from Cantonment Hill to the River. It would also mean that conserving and adapting parts of the old bridge (even the Freo High Line) can be seriously evaluated and considered – unlike in most of the other options.
This is the potential win-win that the community’s feedback has been pointing towards. It might look like the following photo mock-up.
It’s an option that the community should be able to have on the table and improve upon. But it’s probably also an option that Main Roads will try and kill off as they once again put moving cars above people and place.
But, as I said, I write this really, really hoping that I am 100% wrong.