A huge road construction project in Perth is being rushed in order to meet political deadlines, the opposition in Western Australia has claimed.
Expressions of interest document for the first state of the $1.5 billion 13.4 kilometer Perth Freight Link warn that ‘limited planning, development and investigation’ and that a ‘very tight project delivery timeframe’ posed a significant risk to the project being delivered within budget, according to The Western Australian, with other risks including a constrained building environment, a tight budget, challenging environmental conditions and ‘strong sectional community opposition’- the latter point referring to a crossing of the Beeliar wetlands.
"It's clearly rushed to meet the political demands of Tony Abbott and in doing that, the Barnett Government is prepared to risk the state's finances," the paper quotes shadow transport minister Ken Travers as saying.
Billed by the government as the ‘missing link’ within the Perth Urban Transport Corridor between Kewdale, the Freemantle Port and southern industrial areas, the project involves a five kilometer extension of Roe Highway west to the Kwinana Freeway to Stock Road in Coolbellup as well as upgrades of Stock Road, the Leach Highway and High Street, and is expected to remove 500 trucks per day off the Leach Highway by 2031 and bypass 14 sets of traffic lights.
In December, the state announced it would contribute $650 million to the project – a variation from earlier plans which had involved private sector participation and saw the state contributing a smaller portion (the federal government has also contributed $925 million).
According to the EOI documents, planning on the Roe 8 section is well advanced but detailed planning has not yet been done on the section farther west from Stock Road to Fremantle port, including ‘very little consultation’ on the Stock Road and Stirling Highway sections and ‘limited investigation’ of environmental, heritage, geotechnical and hydrological issues.
Also, land requirements and the possible relocation of utility services are only preliminary and require more investigation.
When announcing the funding commitment in December, the government said it hoped contracts for the two key sections of the project would be signed in October and November respectively, and that on-the-ground construction would begin on both projects in early 2016.
Though acknowledging timeframes were tight, Perth Transport Minister Dean Nalder claimed they were realistic and achievable.
"This State Government has a strong track record of delivering major projects on time and on budget," he said.