Friday, 10 May 2013

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Easter Distributor project published 1971

Bear with me while I establish my um street cred. I became involved in controversies more than 30 years ago when Roads Minister Laurie Brereton announced an Eastern Distributor model that he said definitely would be built. There were several plans for the Distributor archived in the Engineering Library at Sydney Uni, one of which is shown above. The Brereton plan had open cut carriage-ways between Bourke and Palmer Streets from Woolloomooloo and Taylor Square, like the previous models, but saved money by dumping two lanes of traffic in each direction into the middle of Flinders Street north of historic St Michaels Church at Albion Street. Brereton's Plan has disappeared from the face of the earth.

I viewed it out of curiosity and a young department officer started talking to me. I said the traffic from Oxford into Flinders Streets could not be funneled into one lane and bus services would be wrecked. There would be congestion in South Dowling Street from traffic turning right into destinations in South Sydney rather than separating into Bourke Street at Taylor Square. He suggested a more diffuse pattern might work - "Rot".

He asked me to write to the Minister with my objections. I laughed - yeah sure, but he insisted "Write to the Minister". He was pleading, so I wrote to the Minister. I brought up his political past: "the tanneries  are not the only things in South Sydney to create a stink". I was evidently not the only one to express concerns because the Minister announced that Professor Stephenson would head an expert group to advise on a design for the Distributor.

The English-born Professor had, with Hepburn, signed off on a metropolitan plan for Perth that would have seen Freeways along about half the extensive foreshores of the Swan and Canning Rivers, so things were not looking all that promising. I joined up with a community group in Wooloomolloo that met regularly to discuss action plans. Professor Stephenson turned up at a meeting when the period for making submissions was ending and told the meeting that "the Minister had pulled a plan from a drawer at the Main Roads Commission and said 'build it'". There was light at the end of the tunnel.

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