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Friday, May 14, 2021

Modernisation of London Circuit brings Commonwealth Avenue back to the 1950s

Raising London Circuit to the level of Commonwealth Avenue – a crucial enabling project for stage 2A of light rail, the Government says – will return the road to the way it used to be in the 1950s, before the bridge was built, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

Mr Barr and Minister for Transport Chris Steel revealed this week that the Government would spend $2.1 million under next week’s Budget on early works design to raise London Circuit.

The current split-level, overpass-underpass configuration will be turned into a level intersection, which the government says will make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to travel from the city to the Acton Waterfront.

“The city – the CBD itself – is expanding towards the lake, as has been planned for at least two decades now,” Mr Barr said.

Canberra City, aerial view from City Hill looking north. The Melbourne and Sydney Buildings flank Northbourne Avenue west and east on the northern edge of City Hill. March 1953. Picture provided by ACT Heritage Library.

Construction work is expected to begin this year, once the Government receives planning approval from the National Capital Authority and the ACT Planning and Land Authority.

Construction, however, will take two years – which will be “very disruptive” for the southern end of the CBD, Mr Barr and Mr Steel acknowledged.

Shadow Minister for Transport Mark Parton was concerned: “The Government needs to be upfront about the serious disruption the construction of 2A will cause for motorists and other commuters who are already struggling to access the Civic area. Adequate contingencies need to be put in place to ensure minimal disruption.”

Mr Steel promised the Government would take steps to minimise disruption to traffic during construction. Edinburgh Avenue had been extended from London Circuit to Vernon Circle, while the Gungahlin Drive extension duplication – Barton Highway to Aranda – and the Majura Parkway freeway on the eastern side created other north-south access points.

“This work is the culmination of 20 years of planning,” Mr Barr said. “It’s always been envisaged that this would occur.”

Telopea Park, Barton and Kingston, aerial view from the weir looking southwest to Forrest and Red Hill. March 1953. Picture provided by ACT Heritage Library.

The Federal Government’s $137 million upgrade of Commonwealth Bridge – which reached its traffic-carrying capacity three years ago – will also disrupt traffic. Mr Steel said the two governments would co-ordinate the design and construction of the projects.

“We will seek to work with them to align the most disruptive works so that they all occur at once and do not stretch out over an extended period,” Mr Barr said.

But the ACT Government states the traffic disruption will only be a two-year inconvenience. “Light rail to Woden will deliver long-term transformational benefits for our city, improve our public transport network, and create thousands of new jobs,” Mr Steel said.

The Government will also consider extending light rail from Woden to Mawson sooner than anticipated.

“We want to extend the benefits of light rail that we’ve seen on the Northside to the rest of the City,” Mr Steel said.

City Hill, Civic and the northern suburbs, aerial view from Reid looking northwest. City Hill is at centre, with Constitution Avenue leading from it to lower right. March 1953. Picture provided by ACT Heritage Library.

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