OP-ED: Launceston Ring Road Must be Seriously Considered
28 August 2019, The Examiner
The question of an eastern bypass, ring road or link road for Launceston has been going around in circles for years.
In July 2018, then Infrastructure Minister Jeremy Rockliff responding to questions advised of the establishment of a Northern Councils Transport Working Group to identify and prioritise regional transport projects for the long term.
It is my understanding that Meander Valley, West Tamar and City of Launceston council general managers make up the steering group along with State Growth who has engaged a consultant to work with them but that the purview is broad in scope.
For example, a transport vision and how people move around. It is hoped that a bypass or road/traffic policy would be a major focus, but I don't believe that is the case.
With the hundreds of millions of dollars being placed into the UTAS Northern Transformation Project, I would urge the decision-makers to seriously consider the impacts this will have on traffic issues and the effects that traffic issues will have on the new campus in the heart of the city.
The precinct being developed at Inveresk leads directly into arterial and freight roads.
With the current state of these roads the ease, amenity and safety of those working, studying and living at the campus will be significantly affected.
It would, therefore, make sense to incorporate funds already put aside to address the existing traffic flow issues, particularly along Cimitiere and William streets, in concert with the building and maintenance of university-related infrastructure.
This then feeds into the opportunity to ameliorate the wider traffic issues which Launceston has been dealing with for decades.
If the state government truly views the University relocation as a fundamentally transformative project, then I cannot see why decision-makers won't consider or prioritise university traffic amenity as a factor informing their priorities to determine a traffic vision and, as a consequence, the much-needed bypass.
It is unquestionable that living near and experiencing the effects of heavy, high-emissions vehicles is unpleasant.
Even for residents, parts of the city are rendered virtually inaccessible at points where such vehicles pass through. This includes the walk from the CBD to the Gorge area, such as where Paterson Street intersects with Wellington and Bathurst streets.
It is intimidating, noisy and, especially for foreign visitors (including the students that will be attracted by the redeveloped University precinct) presents a hostile veneer, even in some of the most beautiful parts of the city. Consequently (and understandably) this contributes to an increase in the hiring of cars, even just to get around the inner city, feeding right back into the aggravation of the pre-existing traffic issues.
Despite all of the government's talk about traffic and transport "visions", their most recent answer to me in Parliament strongly indicates that their considerations are extremely narrow in scope.
The explicit answer to my question regarding steps towards an eastern bypass was met with the response that other projects were of greater priority, as they would "deliver the greatest travel time and economic cost benefits".
This contradicts existing sentiment relating to developing a transport vision, as it disregards the wider considerations to make Launceston a more socially-oriented, clean and accommodating city for our residents and visitors. Along with the transformative effects of the UTAS relocation to the heart of the city, we are seeing a greater focus on inner-city amenity and liveability.
Private investment in inner-city living projects are accelerating, and taking a walk through the Launceston CBD reveals a great deal of construction work going on. Moreover, Launceston has seen an unprecedented level of public and private investment to make the city more attractive and amenable.
The construction of the Silo Hotel, the redevelopment of the C.H. Smith site and the Quadrant Mall, Civic Square and Brisbane Street Mall refurbishments have all contributed to a quantifiable shift in the city's disposition.
We cannot, however, simply construct and refresh these areas and expect them to flourish alone - work must be done to maintain, and accelerate, the move towards making Launceston a great regional city.
As Launceston moves closer to becoming the great, educational regional city we are steering it towards, we will find that, despite these opportunities arising, the work being done to make the inner-city more liveable and attractive will be for nothing.
If the traffic issues, particularly as they relate to heavy, high-emissions vehicles, remain a non-priority for the government, urban sprawl will commensurately worsen and the opportunities once present for city living and development will dissipate.
If we are to attract a younger demographic, we must leverage the world-class infrastructure that already exists here; not take it for granted and not allow it to worsen.
It makes very little sense for such significant expenditure to be channelled into Launceston's liveability and amenity without also ensuring that issues like traffic flow and road maintenance detract from it.