Ring road ‘white elephant’

TRANSPORT Minister Rita Saffioti doubts completion of the Albany ring road will start any time soon, while Greens MLC Diane Evers has intimated the project may be a white elephant.

Responding to a Parliamentary Estimates grilling by Nationals MLA Vince Catania on May 23, Ms Saffioti lamented that the flow of cash from the Commonwealth was “very bad and will not allow us to do the project”.

“[Main Roads Managing Director] Peter Woronzow has made contact with the Federal Government agency and we will have further discussions about what we can spend as quickly as possible,” she said.

“There is probably room for movement depending on its budget situation.”

Albany ring road
Planned stages 2 and 3 in red. Source: Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

On May 16, Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan gave the State a pat on the back for extracting a promise of $140 million from Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the $172 million ring road. 

The promise was made in the lead-up to the recent Federal election.

Also on May 16, Ms Evers said she doubted the project would stack up.

She said she had spoken to “somebody who said, ‘Oh, yeah, [the ring-road] was my idea; I drew that on the back of a serviette back in 1994, or 1993, or something. It is a great idea. We had plans that we would need this for the blue gum industry, but we have pretty well settled that blue gum industry; it is ticking along and still working, and everything seems to be good’.”

Ms Evers, who lives between Denmark and Albany, acknowledged the city’s main roundabout – which would be by-passed by any ring road – was a problem. 

“We regularly have crashes there, probably daily—just little prangs now and then,” she said.

“Getting a road train through there in the grain season is really difficult. 

“But as Albanians, we really do try to avoid the idea of having a traffic light situation.”

Stage one of the ring road, Menang Drive, was completed 12 years ago. Ms Evers said stages two and three would cost the State a “huge amount of money, $170 million, and the traffic count there is not big”. 

“We may push all those trucks to go over that way, but it is an extra number of kilometres that they may want to avoid,” she added. 

“I do not live far from that road and I doubt the demand for it.”

Ms Evers said the State had decided to build the road “because people have been asking for it for some time”. 

“Hopefully it is built well, and sometime in the future Albany’s industry develops,” she said.

“It is a town of only 30,000 or 35,000 or something like that. 

“If the population reached 100,000, I am sure the road would be very useful but I have not seen any population figures suggesting that will occur any time soon.”

She said that, at the same time, “one rail line after another” was being closed and “year after year it is more difficult to address the increasing transport needs for freight of all sorts and the interaction of such freight transport with human traffic”. 

“There is an urgent need for an integrated transport strategy for the south west,” she said. 

“The strategy will need the collaboration of community and across-agency development and it will need to consider rail and road infrastructure.”

She said she would put the need for a southern transport strategy to drafters of a planned State infrastructure strategy “as soon as possible”.

Stage two of the road is slated to run from George Street through to Princess Royal Drive, and the final stage three from Albany Highway to Lower Denmark Road via Link Road and George Street.

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