Upgrade High St? Yes, but not at any cost to our health and community!

Submitted by sam on Sat, 30/11/2013 - 08:00

There is widespread support both in the community and on council for a long overdue upgrade of High St; both to address the safety of the intersection with Stirling Highway, and to provide residents on High St with a separated local access road.

However Main Roads, and through it the state government, are effectively holding our community to ransom by insisting that any "upgrade" be based on a six lane road reserve flanked by walls.

This would cut a swathe through the area and wipe out 100 trees (including some mature Tuarts). It would also see five pedestrian crossing points reduced to only one overpass, effectively cutting the Gibson Park precinct off from White Gum Valley and East Fremantle like a Berlin Wall. It would be a massive disincentive to walking and cycling.

Widening the road from four lanes to six lanes will also increase its capacity by 50%, bringing a similar increase in both noise and diesel particulate pollution.

Main Roads insist they need to increase the road capacity to meet future traffic increases. But such increases are only "inevitable" because of systematic failure by the state government to properly invest in public transport and freight on rail.

In addition to the well publicised "deferring" of their public transport commitments, they are also sabotaging more sustainable freight transport. Take these three examples:

1. Minister Buswell clarified that his pre-election promise to get 30% of freight to the port on rail was just an "aspirational" target and that he does not propose to do anything to help achieve it. In fact his government has cancelled a proposed rail freight infrastructure project.

2. Despite the overwhelming opposition of wheat farmers, the state government is actively conspiring to bring about the closure of the Tier 3 railway lines, pushing an extra 40,000 truck movements per year on to our roads.

3. The state government has removed the subsidy to the WA coastal shipping service that goes to the Pilbara and Kimberley, pushing yet more containers and oversize loads over the Stirling Highway bridge and up the Great Northern Highway.

The Main Roads proposal for High St is just one link in their plan for a "freeway standard" road from the Kwinana Freeway to the port. It includes Roe8 through the wetlands, a six lane Stock Rd, flyovers at Winterfold and South Streets, a six lane Stirling Highway blasting through East Fremantle and a six lane Stirling Highway bridge.

This would run into the billions of dollars and is all money that would be better spent on public transport and rail freight infrastructure. But the state government seems determined to subsidize its buddies in the road construction, trucking and fossil fuels business; no matter the cost to human health, the environment or the public purse.

The explicit threat from Minister Buswell is that if the council doesn't agree to the Main Roads plan, the state will compulsorily seize the land and provide the local community with even less compensation by way of pedestrian crossings and works to relocate affected community activities.

In spite of this at its November 2013 meeting council once again affirmed its in principle support for a more modest High St upgrade subject to the conditions below:

1. Indicates its support for the construction of a four lane road within a four lane
road reserve.

2. Reaffirms its previous resolution of 26 September 2012 in part 4 to give 'in principle support' to proceed with the Safe Systems Approach (maximum 160 metre radius towards the Port and 210 away from the Port radius curve) Option for the High Street Fremantle Upgrade Project.

3. Requires that Main Roads WA will provide for east-west and north-south pedestrian and cyclist connectivity in the form of overpasses or underpasses at two appropriate locations, in addition to any upgrading of the Marmion St crossing.

4. Requires that Main Roads examine all cost-effective options to preserve the
mature Tuart trees to the south side of High Street.

5. Requests Main Roads to form a small technical committee with the City of
Fremantle to provide detailed advice back to Council on each of the issues raised
by the community.

6. Supports the relocation of FERN to another site in the City such as the C class
Reserve in Booyeembara Park.

7. Endorses a submission to Main Roads WA on the proposed accommodation
works associated with the High Street upgrade including for the following (as
commented on in Table 2 of the officers report);
•Royal Fremantle Golf course
•Public Golf Course
•Booyeembara Park
•Pedestrian and Cyclist connectivity