A north-south corridor plan 12 years in the making

A blueprint to open Adelaide’s north-south corridor was submitted to the state Labor Government early in its first term in office, with striking similarities to the plan newly-created with $8.5 million of federal funding.

A 2003 proposal entitled “Adelaide’s Missing North-South Link” was prepared by the Committee for Adelaide Roads, an industry lobby group comprised of members from organisations including the Civil Contractors Federation, the SA Road Transport Association, the Transport Workers Union and the Australian Workers Union.

It advocated various options and funding models for a 62km two to three lane motorway linking Gawler to Noarlunga, estimated to cost $1.3 billion.

The Weatherill Government yesterday released its own plan to transform South Road into a non-stop 78km corridor from Gawler to Old Noarlunga within Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 10-year aspirational deadline, at a cost of $9.3 billion.

“Of course, if you leave everything for a number of years it goes up,” Committee for Adelaide Roads chair Barrie Hosking told InDaily.

He described the basis of the plan as “getting rid of 64 sets of traffic lights” along the north-south corridor, concurrently solving a spate of problems on the roads that run east-west across South Rd.

“We were about a free-flowing north-south corridor to aid the growth of Adelaide,” he said.

“We’re a linear city – north to south.”

The CAR plan anticipated $900 million could be funded by the private sector, with a “minimal net government contribution” of around $450 million, with the lion’s share to come from Commonwealth coffers.

The proposal hoped to “deliver travel time improvements of 26 minutes, (with) savings to motorist of $3.00 to $4.50 in fuel alone (and) an overall benefit to the SA economy of $1.6 billion … which would make SA competitive nationally”.

It warned against delaying, arguing to do so would make “land acquisition more difficult and costly” and “risk losing more business to interstate”.

The State Government’s new scoping study estimates costs of about $1 billion in land acquisition alone.

Hosking says the committee is still active but recent projects along the corridor, including ongoing works on the Torrens to Torrens stretch and Darlington hub, have satisfied him that the requisite work is being done.

“We’re keeping an eye on it. We’re a small group with limited funds … we keep our powder dry till there’s something to talk about,” he said, adding that SA’s “atrocious” road maintenance funding was the group’s primary current focus.

The State Government plan was released amid an escalating political squabble between state and federal governments, with Abbott’s infrastructure minister Jamie Briggs today declaring he would no longer work with state Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis and federal Treasurer Joe Hockey again pushing for SA to consider tolls.

Former state infrastructure chief Rod Hook hinted at a poisonous relationship between Koutantonis and Briggs, recalling their first face-to-face discussion was so “aggressive” he considered bringing hard hats into a subsequent meeting, but wasn’t sure the gag would go down well.

Hook, who has previously advocated for tolls to be examined, says he “can’t see them doing that”, at least “not for cars”.

“I don’t think you can just pick a single road and put a toll on it, in the Adelaide context, because you’re not putting up a new corridor that people have a choice of whether they use or not, you’re actually upgrading an existing road,” he said.

“You’re asking people to pay for what they currently have.”

He said the Government could consider a freight toll, but it would still face a potential political backlash.

“South Road is unique for our city, as it’s not subject to peak hours like most roads … it has high traffic all day,” he said.

“It’s a freight corridor, and you do get benefit costs every time you make improvement for freight.”

Aspects of the north-south corridor has been the subject of several scoping studies since Labor took power in 2002, and Hook says a free-flowing South Road was a feature of the Government’s 2005 Infrastructure Plan.

“We put this north-south non-stop corridor on the agenda in the infrastructure plan, and we have ticked off several bits of that,” he said.

“They’ve done studies to look at particular sections, a lot of studies…you’ve got to pick off each proposal, have a good look at the design and work out how you’re going to keep traffic flowing while you’re building it.”

He anticipated there would be further detailed plans on specific areas of the corridor, noting: “Surely they haven’t spent $8.5 million just on that.”