The jewel in the crown of a $92.5 million traffic vision for Launceston will be a new bridge connecting the East and West Tamar highways, from Riverside to Newnham – something that has been talked about for decades.
That is the Liberals’ plan if it is re-elected to government in March.
The proposed bridge would cross the Tamar River, north of Cormiston Road, allowing drivers to avoid the congested West Tamar Highway where it enters the city.
It is part of a broader traffic plan along the Tamar and in the city, which would include an upgrade to the Batman Highway, Tamar Highway upgrades, extended capacity of the Charles Street Bridge, and a potential increase to the speed limit on part of the East Tamar Highway.
The Liberals are also proposing a “road swap” deal with City of Launceston in order to take control of the central parts of Bathurst and Wellington streets, and those sections of York and Brisbane Streets that connect the couplet to the state-owned Kings Bridge.
“That would give the state government control of the entire network,” Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said.
“That’s one road manager, one network. Right now, any decision the council makes on their roads could have a wide range of effects on the transport network and council’s been very positive in understanding that it would be a very smart idea to have the principal network operator to be the manager of all the roads.
“It will allow the state government to take a holistic regional view of traffic flow for public transport, light vehicles and heavy freight, with more efficient traffic movement to benefit all road users travelling through the city.”
Bridge over the Tamar River
Treasurer Peter Gutwein said a re-elected Liberal government would begin planning, designing and costing the planned bridge over the river straight away.
“A number of traffic studies have pointed to the need for a second urban river crossing due in large part to the ongoing growth in traffic volumes on the West Tamar Highway,” he said.
With population growth projected for areas such as Legana, the road to the new bridge would likely turn off the Tamar Highway north of Riverside, Mr Hidding said.
“This is something that’s been on the books for 30 to 40 years and that’s another Tamar River crossing.
“The West Tamar Highway as it moves into the city over the bridges, it is one of the more congested areas in Tasmania, one of the last areas to be focused on in terms of congestion.
“So it would have a transformational effect on the West Tamar Highway, both in social terms, economic development terms, industrial productivity terms – a bridge at that point ticks all the boxes.
“We’re projecting at this stage for discussion purposes to be 16 metres high and that lets the largest yachts through. If it needs to be higher, that would be determined over the first five years of planning for this bridge.”
Mr Hidding said the bridge could be a reality within 10 years, with construction estimated to be three years once planning and approvals were completed.
Mr Gutwein said the exact location of the bridge and the road exiting the West Tamar Highway would be decided during the planning and design stage.
“The funding for the feasibility, design and geo-tech studies is in the budget and available immediately as well for the bridge at University Way,” he said.
“And we’ve included within the five-year window $25 million as the first state contribution to that project, subject to planning determining that it should go ahead and whilst we’re working to that process, we’ll put together a submission to Infrastructure Australia - we’ll need to seek some Commonwealth government support for this.”
Mr Hidding said the 20-kilometres stretch of the East Tamar Highway, which has a 100km/h speed limit would potentially be changed to 110km/h.
“We believe in roads working to their capacity and design so we’ll have it formally assessed to see whether it is capable of 110km/h because we firmly believe it is and that will reduce a frustration that has been in place ever since the road was built,” he said.
“We would ask the Australian Road Research board to do that work. That would take them about three to four months. I’d have thought in the first 12 months after the election, we’d have the minimum speed limit eased up to its designed specification.”
Launceston ‘traffic vision’ projects
- Bridge connecting the East and West Tamar highways
- Batman Highway upgrade
- Potential speed limit increase on East Tamar Highway
- West Tamar Highway upgrade
- Mowbray connector intersection upgrade
- Road swap deal with City of Launceston
- Charles Street Bridge capacity extension