Canberra light rail could utilise new bridge route

National Capital Authority (NCA) chief executive Sally Barnes has stated that Canberra’s Commonwealth Avenue Bridge could be replaced to accommodate plans for the Canberra Light Rail Stage 2 project.

Barnes told ABC Radio Canberra on May 22 the bridge was part of an ageing asset portfolio and that the NCA was considering building a replacement bridge as an option.

Barnes has previously expressed her disagreement with territory government proposals to build a light rail route in the gap between Commonwealth Avenue’s twin bridges while reducing the bridges’ traffic lanes to accommodate the stage two route.

“[The Commonwealth Avenue Bridge] was designed in the 50s, built in the 60s, standards have changed for traffic,” Barnes said. “We’ve got a lot more traffic going over there than anyone ever envisaged — we need to keep it functional and operating.”

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government and collaborator Canberra Metro completed the first of the project’s two planned stages — a northerly link from Canberra’s city centre (Alinga Street) to Gungahlin — in April at a cost of $675 million. Stage two of the project is expected to cost much more however, with initial estimates pegged at $1.3-1.6 billion.

The stage two route will extend the line from the city centre to Woden in the south, requiring that trams pass over Lake Burley Griffin.

Engineers Australia civil structural committee chair, Greg Taylor concurred with Barnes, telling the Canberra Times that a new bridge would be a good decision and that elements of the existing Commonwealth Avenue bridge were now outdated.

“From an engineering perspective, you would be able to use better materials and extend the life of the bridge and reduce maintenance costs by building a new one,” he said.

Canberran commuters have enjoyed a month of fare-free travel in the city following revisions to Canberra’s public transport network. Normal paid services will resume from May 27.

“We hope people will continue to use public transport after the free period concludes, and we will keep monitoring the system as people settle into travel patterns and get used to our new integrated public transport network,” said Transport Minister Meeghan Fitzharris.