Kingsford Smith Drive Upgrade Dependent on March Election? Doubt it, Rod.
Lendlease was announced this week as the contractor for the $650 million upgrade of Kingsford Smith Drive (KSD to those of us in the biz). Immediately following this announcement, Rod Harding, Lord Mayoral candidate for Labor and recent recipient of the coveted 'Muppet of the Month' award from the blog here at iSeekplant (given to any righteous bag-of-wind who damages progress in our industry to further their own cause), is continuing to promise that he’ll scrap the project if he’s elected - regardless of how much has already been spent on it. “I can tell you now, this project will not proceed”, he said.
$130 million will have been spent on the upgrade by the elections in March next year, and Lord Mayor Graham Quirk accused Mr Harding of being “whimsical”. Whimsical is how one would describe, say, Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Peter Allan in the Boy from Oz. Diabolical is a better word to describe the wasting of $130 million from Queensland's public purse during a tough economic climate and after 5 years of talking about it.
If Mr Harding chooses to ditch the project he’s sure to be about as popular with local Brisbanites as rollerblading at South Bank in February, as significant funds have already been spent - meaning $130 million of taxpayer money lit with a match, and nothing for our city to show for it. He could also potentially face penalties for breaking the contract.
Mr Harding would make improvements to three intersections on Kingsford Smith Drive and keep the road to four lanes at a cost of $150 million. Chris Warnock, President of Engineers Australia Queensland warned that cancelling the contract for the widening of KSD to six lanes, after almost five years of debate is “not in the best interests of the community or industry”. Understatement of the century.
The project is due to provide 3,000 jobs, and Mr Quirk said that there is a “clear need” for the widening of the road since previous government plans have allowed thousands of new apartments at Hamilton Northshore, along with the growth of the nearby business area and Brisbane Airport.
Mr Quirk also said that modelling has shown if the project doesn’t go ahead, 10 intersections would be over capacity by 2021. Labor is only planning to upgrade three intersections which would leave seven over capacity with no public transport or cycleway.
Kingsford Smith Drive is a major road which links Brisbane Airport, Northshore Hamilton, Port of Brisbane and the Australia Tradecoast area to the Brisbane CBD. The Brisbane City Council is aiming to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion with the staged upgrade, by widening the road from four to six lanes from Breakfast Creek Road to Harvey Street. For anyone who's made the mistake of turning onto KSD in peak hour in the morning, you'll know of the seething frustration of finding yourself in a carpark of tail lights with only the car radio to drown out your screams (and Brisbane's morning radio scene is a desolate wasteland at best, a black abyss of babble at worst).
Stage one of the upgrade has already been completed and runs from Harvey Street to Theodore Street. Lendlease’s concept includes indented bus stops (so buses don’t slow traffic), improved bikeways, a tree-lined central boulevard, pedestrian walkways and a series of platforms for viewing. Sounds positively magical. The rest of the project will be delivered for $453 million including electricity and gas shifting costs and property acquisitions. If Labor gets up - sounds like we'll end up with a half-baked solution, which won't work over the long-term and will come at an enormous expense. And like someone rollerblading in the summer, KSD will quickly turn into a sweaty, hairy mess of angry commuters.
The contract is due to be signed by Christmas, with early works ready to begin in the new year. Major construction will be following in April unless there’s a change of leadership.
So get onboard, Rod. KSD is happening.