We believe the stated ‘benefits’ of the proposed NSBT are at the very least tenuous and at the worst a misrepresentation of the truth.
The project is for a 4.7 km road tunnel between Bowen Hills and Woolloongabba.
There will be three ‘portals’ (entry points for road traffic) these are located at:
· Bowen Hills - Campbell Street with links to Lutwyche Road and the Inner City Bypass (ICB)
· Woolloongabba - Ipswich Road and the South East freeway
· Kangaroo Point - Shaftson Avenue and Castlebar Road
There is a range of other works associated with the road construction, reallocation of services, additional power, machinery for ventilation of traffic emissions, ventilation stacks, tunnel management and emergency services.
Campbell Newman has admitted at a Brisbane Development Association luncheon that even after the NSBT is constructed the surrounding feeder roads will be congested.
When Brisbane City Council (BCC) requested that the project be recognized a "Significant Project' under The State Development Public Works Organisaton Act the Initial Advice Statement identified the NSBT would deliver the following benefits:
o Improved travel time (10 – 20 minutes)
o Reduce traffic accidents
o Reduce congestion
o Increased road capacity for more public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.
The project is to be paid for by tolls. The Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman made an election promise that tolls would be $2.00. But estimates made at the time of the prefeasibility traffic analysis, indicated that the tolls would need to be $3.30 plus. The project may not provide sufficient revenue – as motorists have many “free” alternatives – Inner City Bypass (ICB), Hale Street Riverside express way.
BCC’s initial demand modeling indicates that the tolled facility would attract up to 66,000 vehicles per day in 2011. The inputs and assumptions to this modeling work are unclear. It is understood that these figures were arrived at on the basis of ‘closing’ alternative access routes and thereby ‘forcing’ traffic through the tunnel.
BCC's initial demand modeling work also indicated that there will be large impacts (ie congestion) in the following locations:
o Lutwyche Road north of the ICB
o ICB east of the Lutwyche Road connection
o Shafton Avenue east of the tunnel connection
o Ipswich Road South of the Tunnel connection
BCC is promoting this project on the basis that it will save 20 minutes in travel time. The travel time savings are being ‘oversold’ - the savings likely to be realized will vary between 3 minutes to a maximum of 15 minutes. The real time likely to be saved will be, on average, less than 10 minutes.
The tunnel is being sold on the concept that there will be a lot of freed up road space therefore providing local residents with a better amenity and better air quality. BCC has stated that this ‘freed up space’ will then be used for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
There is no such thing as ‘freed up road space’. Transport planners world wide recognise there is actually ‘induced demand’. This occurs when ‘new’ road space is created (in this instance created by the tunnel) and people perceive there is more road space and generate ‘new’ trips.
There have been a range of issues emerge from the Sydney tunnel experiences that Queensland should learn from. The tunnel known as the M5 (Sydney to Sydney airport) is around 4 k long. The Hansard record (page 5476) of the NSW Parliamentary debate in September 2002 on the Roads Amendment (Road Tunnel Pollution Filtration) Bill states “.........The issues raised on the M5 East indicates that whilst there was much focus on the external air quality issues, the in-tunnel conditions have proven to be more problematic. ……. The nature of CBD gridlock is also expected to cause potential problems on a more regular basis with limited opportunity for mitigation or for traffic management solutions......”.
This text refers to the fact that because of the congestion on feeder roads into and out of the tunnel, tunnel traffic is regularly delayed. This has caused people in vehicles to experience extreme discomfort and in some cases distress due to the in-tunnel pollution. On some days the situation has been so bad that open top cars and motorbikes have been advised not to enter.
Already Lutwyche Road is congested – traffic from the ICB is often banked up and traffic comes to a standstill.
The solution is not so easy that we can simply build our way out of the problem.
But a solution needs to be found and it must be found in a transparent manner with a full understanding of what the project will deliver to the regional network.
If there is a need for addition cross-river connections – the decisions about location and form (tunnel/bridge) need to be made in a more accountable and open process. A process that considers the benefits and costs of alternatives within a rigorous evaluation framework.
Brisbane prides itself on being a clean and green city with a tropical lifestyle - the envy of other capital cities. We need to learn from the tunnel experiences of Sydney and Melbourne.
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