Molonglo Valley: Ministerial statement 2021

Minister Steel’s statement in the ACT Legislative Assembly, 3 June 2021, provided little new information, but confirmed further transport investment for improvement and duplication of roads. Cycling projects were not mentioned – except for one: the long awaited bridge over Weston Creek.

More roads and little else

Marisa Paterson, MLA ACT Labor, reminded us that “you’re not stuck in a traffic jam; you are the traffic jam” and Jo Clay, MLA ACT Greens “that we cannot build our way out of congestion”. The approach of the ACT Government, however, is precisely that: to duplicate more roads and to improve arterial, such as the Tuggeranong Parkway.

The evidence is clear. The vast majority of people are not prepared to ride along a dual lane carriage way with cars and a speed limit of 80-100 km/h. It is loud, dirty, unhealthy, and should a car collide with you on a bike, you will likely die.

Most cyclists like cycling and have no intention to cut their lives short. Studies have shown to get cycling equality (both women and men cycling in equal numbers), safe off-road cycle paths are essential. Cycling equality should not be confused with fairness, but rather a milestone to getting a large section of the community cycling. A recent study shows that equality occurs at around 7% participation (mode share).

The urban planner, Brent Toderian, is famous for increasing the cycling participation in Toronto, Canada. He has said that to achieve cycling participation rates of 10%, “paint and lines on the road will not do”, but rather, we must build dedicated off-road cycle paths. The mode share for cycling in Canberra is around 3%

Further investment, duplicating arterials roads wastes money that could otherwise be spent on cycle highways for a fraction of the cost.

Time for change

Minister Steel’s approach is a very expensive and ineffective way of improving cycling infrastructure. The underinvestment in cycling infrastructure in Canberra is chronic. It is time to catch up. The ACT Greens have promised 20% of the transport budget, or $20 million per annum. That would be a good start but, as yet, no projects have been announced. At this stage, the ACT Greens have made little progress on the cycling strategy announced at the last election.

It would be encouraging to see investments to improve the CBR Cycle Routes that have been planned by the ACT Government since 2015. These routes are mostly incomplete and many are in dire need of maintenance. These routes are safe bets and desperately needed. The CBR Cycle Routes are discussed in We have plan!

Weston Creek Bridge

The suburb of Weston Creek was built around the stream Weston Creek, in the long tradition of original thinking found across the Molonglo Valley (e.g. Deep Creek). Weston Creek flows into the Molonglo River at Weston Creek Pond, where the creek is nothing more than a concrete channel.

The CBR Cycle Route C5 along the Molonglo River passes by the Weston Creek Pond, close to the RSPCA site. Harold White Avenue in Coombs ends abruptly on the other side. It seems unlikely that Harold White Avenue will ever cross Weston Creek. A bridge is, however, planned between Harold White Avenue and the existing CBR Cycle Route C5. This will shorten the journey from Coombs to the city by approximately 2 km. Currently, it is necessary to ride around the pond.

The lack of the bridge connecting Coombs to CBR Cycle Route C5 has been the subject of discussion since 2015, and is unlikely to be finished for another few years. The design work has yet to begin so that the project duration for this bridge will be around 8 years. That is about average for cycling infrastructure.

Ministerial statement

Minister Steel (Murrumbidgee—Minister for Skills, Minister for Transport and City Services and Special Minister of State) (10.09): (shortened)

I am pleased to take this opportunity to update the Assembly on the transport investments the ACT government is making in the Molonglo Valley. …

The strategic transport model tells us that, as this population continues to grow, there will be additional pressure on the transport network. Particular roads we know will face pressure include William Hovell Drive, Tuggeranong Parkway and Parkes Way. That is why the ACT government is investing in these roads today.

The ACT government has a major investment in the pipeline for road upgrades around Molonglo and Weston Creek, which are currently at either the feasibility, concept design or detailed design stages, with construction to follow. …

The most significant project currently underway in the Molonglo Valley is the completion of John Gorton Drive and the construction of a new bridge over the Molonglo River. … As a key transport corridor, the bridge will also include both on-road shared and an off-road shared path. We look forward to commencing the process to procure a design and construction contractor later this year, with the intent of undertaking detailed design work next year and commencing construction in mid-2023 ahead of the bridge opening as early as 2025.

We are also progressing work on the duplication of 4.5 kilometres worth of carriageway along William Hovell Drive, connecting the Molonglo Valley to Belconnen. … In Weston Creek, feasibility studies are about to commence for the intersections of Streeton Drive with Namatjira Drive and Heysen Street to make getting in and out of the group centre safer.

The ACT government will also shortly be commencing a (feasibility) study to determine future improvements to Canberra’s south-west corridor, which will consider things like capacity upgrades on the Tuggeranong Parkway. We are also examining improvements that can be undertaken further up the road network along Parkes Way.

Transport – Molonglo Valley, Ministerial statement, Hansard from ACT Legislative Assembly, 3 June 2021.

Active travel

Encouraging the use of active travel is another important pillar of our investments in the Molonglo Valley. …

New shared paths will be delivered as part of major road projects, including the John Gorton Drive bridge and the William Hovell Drive duplication. The future Molonglo east-west arterial project would also include a city to Molonglo cycle route (ed. C10), providing a direct cycle route to the city. The Suburban Land Agency is also completing the Molonglo River trail. A new bridge at north Weston near Klos Crossing will connect to Harold White Avenue in Coombs to the Molonglo River trail. …

… We continue to use the strategic transport model to predict future travel demand across the network by taking into account land use projections like population growth, employment, shopping precincts and school enrolments, as well as proposed transport network improvements and future transport costs.

As we know, the Molonglo Valley and the surrounding region are growing rapidly. By the end of 2031, we expect that close to 37,000 residents will live there, up from fewer than 5,000 in 2016. We have been working hard to keep ahead of that population growth. …

Transport – Molonglo Valley, Ministerial statement, Hansard from ACT Legislative Assembly, 3 June 2021.

Jo Clay MLA

MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (10.20): (shortened)

Molonglo Valley will be one of Canberra’s high-density regions. If we build our transport infrastructure right, we will need fewer cars and we will get more cycling, walking and public transport use.

There are already congestion problems for residents in Molonglo and Weston Creek. We all understand that you cannot fix congestion by building more roads. More roads simply fill up with more cars. Cities choke on cars, and Canberra is a rapidly growing city. We need to fix our congestion by increasing public and active transport. There are lots of ways to do this. For active transport, we need separated corridors through Molonglo and throughout all of our regions. We need separated shared paths that provide a continuous route for all of the major roads we are building and extending. …

We need to spend 20% of our roads budget on building and maintaining our shared paths and footpaths. We need to make sure that we are counting that 20% properly to ensure we are getting new infrastructure that is dedicated and built primarily for active travel not simply getting new accounting. …

We also need to give public and active transport traffic priority to make it easy and convenient for people to use.

Transport habits are formed when people first plan their home purchase and move in. In our new suburbs it is incredibly important to offer the best services as soon as possible. People form their habits early, and they need to know they can rely on these services. If they do not feel confident, they will buy a car or a second car, and they may not come back to public and active transport at all after that.

We need to invest for the future now. Building public and active transport infrastructure and getting the best grade-separated shared path infrastructure is incredibly important. We cannot lose sight of that while building more multi-lane roads.

Reply to Transport – Molonglo Valley, Ministerial statement, Hansard from ACT Legislative Assembly, 3 June 2021.

Dr Marisa Paterson MLA

DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (10.24): (shortened)

The transport sector accounts for 62 per cent of carbon emissions in the ACT and is the largest contributing sector. This figure is dominated by private vehicle use.

Canberrans make over a million trips every day. In the ACT, around 30 per cent of trips made are either less than five kilometres or between five and 10 kilometres. These are distances that are easily walkable or rideable.

For most of us, getting from A to B is a means to an end, and the less time we spend on the road, particularly in private cars, the better. I once heard a phrase, “You’re not stuck in a traffic jam; you are the traffic jam.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, and it is a very powerful one. …

Reply to Transport – Molonglo Valley, Ministerial statement, Hansard from ACT Legislative Assembly, 3 June 2021.

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