Monday, 10 March 2014

Return of the living dead

Attack from the north
They must eat the brains of Southsiders to survive
Sydney Region Outline Plan 1968
Old Freeway Reserves
This is not the first time the North Shore rump of the Liberal Party has tried to ride roughshod over the Inner West and Surry Hills. Forty five years ago the government of Robin Askin, the Member for Manly, set up a committee of "experts" to draw up plans for linear radial freeways that would over-ride the Cumberland Planning Scheme. The black lines ending in arrows on the "Outline Plan 1968" were the proposed motorways.

The main roads of Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth and most North American cities had been laid out in orthogonal patterns and the mathematical implausibilities of the radial motorways superimposed on the grids of North American cities were impossible to deny by the late 1960s. However, Sydney had always had a radial highway structure because of the limited routes out of the Sydney Basin.

The Pacific Highway was the only route to northern NSW and had been directly linked to the Harbour Bridge with the first Sydney motorway, the Warringah Freeway, and hence to the Cahill Expressway and the Eastern Distributor. The proposed Newcastle motorway, which replicated this route, circled through Darling Harbour and dumped traffic on the western side of the CBD into east/west roads that had never been widened because they lay between the Darlinghurst escarpment and the deep-blue Darling Harbour. The proposed Western motorway, which replicated the Parramatta Road/ Great Western Highway route through the Blue Mountains, did the same thing.

The Eastern Distributor passed between Crown and Bourke Streets before running east along Moore Park Road alignment, cutting a swathe through Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. The designs of the Eastern Distributor and the Western Distributor went through many iterations from the time the Harbour Bridge was built but the CBD and Surry Hills were always the meat in the sandwich. I read through the various designs for the Distributors, which were archived in the Engineering Library at Sydney University, when mounting a case against the design Brereton had "pulled out of a draw and said build it" - they would still be archived in the Fisher Library.

The Sydney Region Outline Plan 1968 was never Gazetted or discussed in Parliament and never had any legal status. It gave carte blanche to developers and Sydney is still dealing with the consequences. The motorway designs were utterly insane, they were never costed, they would have had a devastating impact on public transport in the CBD and they were unworkable; but they were published and fully described.
1973 Road Map

The Liberal party government was forging ahead with the first stage of the Newcastle motorway, the carriage-ways across Darling Harbour, in the belief that the rest would have to proceed, when Neville Wran won a narrow victory in the 1976 state election and terminated the contracts. The carriage-ways were redirected to Glebe Island, the Cumberland highway was cobbled together to give a direct link between the Newcastle motorway and the Hume Highway and the Eastern Distributor provided a link to the Princes Highway under the runways of Mascot Airport. Sanity had been restored and Wran went on to record Wranslide victories. Sydney has ended up with a vaguely orthogonal motorway system.

Westconnex, O'Farrell's tunnel vision
Now the North Shore rump is back in power and we are once again facing uncertainty and confusion. The diagrams released by the government for the multi-billion dollar Westconnex project have stylistic similarities with the diagrams produced by the Askin government - lines with arrows superimposed on indeterminate maps - but there is now a complete lack of detail.

Plan released to ABC News
There is however a startling difference between Askin's plans for the Inner West and O'Farrell's: there is no longer any connection between the Western Distributor and the southbound tunnel. The eastbound tunnel runs under Parramatta road, as proposed by Infrastructure NSW when it wanted to use cut-and-cover construction, then pops up into Parramatta Road east of Pyrmont Bridge Road and west of Sydney University. At this point traffic has nowhere to go except to dogleg into Cleveland Street at City Road or plow on through Pitt Street which will be crossed by trams running on empty to Circular Quay for the first time in history.

The only connection between the Western Distributor and the southbound tunnel will be via Harris Street and Broadway/Parramatta Road, assuming there is an on ramp to the southbound tunnel. The northbound route is along Wattle Street and through the Fig Street bottleneck.

Needless to say, these traffic movements will not auger well for Parramatta Road and City Road bus services. This is the main focus of this blog. There are blogs and websites that deal with the Westconnex project:

On Tuesday 4th March 2014 the Shooters Party and the Labor Party supported a Greens' motion in the upper house giving the O'Farrell government 21 days to release all draft and final versions for the project. The Roads Minister Duncan Gay said: "This puts at risk the biggest road project in the country... It destroys our economic position in getting the best deal for the state."

This kind of motion was discussed at meetings of PUSH but Surry Hills residents did not have the political clout to get it through parliament. The release of the documents will finally give an insight to the workings of the O'Farrell Government.

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