The long-running and contentious extension of Roe Highway has taken a major step towards becoming reality, after the state’s environmental regulator endorsed an improved plan, subject to a strict set of conditions.
The Environmental Protection Authority announced today it would recommend Main Roads Western Australia’s proposal to extend the highway five kilometres from the Kwinana Freeway to Stock Road for approval by Environment Minister Albert Jacob.
Main Roads has tweaked its original proposal, which has been the subject of a number of protests from conservationists since a road reserve was set aside in the Metropolitan Regional Scheme in 1963.
The highway extension is designed to alleviate truck traffic on Leach Highway between the freeway and Fremantle. Truck movements are currently not allowed east of the Kwinana Freeway on Leach Highway.
The plan, however, has been the subject of a number of grassroots campaigns to stop the construction, led by the Conservation Council of Western Australia and community action group Save Beeliar Wetlands, among others.
In 2003, the EPA raised concerns with the sitting state government that Main Roads' proposal would have a negative impact on the local environment if the proposal was to proceed.
The plan in 2003 gave no specific design detail on the road's alignment and the EPA assumed the road would be constructed entirely in the road reserve.
Today, EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the authority’s concerns had been addressed in the new proposal, which received more than 3,200 public submissions during the consultation period.
Changes include the relocation of the original Bibra Drive interchange to Murdoch Drive, and the construction of a 120-metre bridge over Roe Swamp to reduce wetland impacts, Dr Vogel said.
“It is important to note from the outset, the proponent has recognised the regionally significant environmental values of the area and has sought to apply innovative planning and design measures and construction techniques to the proposal,” he said.
Dr Vogel said recommended conditions included an infrastructure plan detailing the final road alignment prior to construction, wetlands monitoring and management plans, as well as a flora and vegetation monitoring and management plan.
There are also limits to groundwater abstraction, a requirement to facilitate animal movements within Beeliar Regional Park, and ‘top-down’ construction methods.
A package of offsets is also required for the extension to proceed, including restoration works, wetland acquisition, and at least 234 hectares of Carnaby’s Cockatoo and Red-tailed black cockatoo foraging habitat.
The EPA’s report to Mr Jacob is open for a two-week public appeal period.
Opposition spokesperson for Transport Ken Travers has urged the Barnett government to ditch the plan, which he says would not be economically viable at a cost of $700 million.
Mr Travers said the benefits of the road would not justify its cost.
"It is irresponsible to spend money on a road that will have little impact on road congestion while having such significant impacts on the environment," Mr Travers said in a statement.
"The Barnett government should focus on building the many road and rail projects across WA that will deliver economic, social and environmental benefits."
Mr Travers said the project had not been included in any of the state government's budget estimates.