Tunnel cleans precinct

POLITICAL, rather than technical, problems proved more of an issue for the tunnel phase of the Graham Farmer Freeway project according to Baulder-stone Clough Joint Venture project manager Ray Purdy.

Mr Purdy said intangibles such as community disquiet were among the biggest problems to be overcome.

Before soil was even turned on the tunnel, Northbridge business owners raised concerns over potential loss of trade.

In some cases, particularly in the eastern end of Northbridge, traders fears have proved justified.

There were also a number of infrastructure problems associated with carving a tunnel through the centre of the city – including the strain on the existing road system.

After all, the tunnel required the modification of several of Perth’s major intersections and the duplication of a main road.

Mr Purdy said there were also difficulties with the relocation of services such as sewerage and telephone lines.

He said some of the plans for the sewerage system were up to seventy years old and, in some cases, inaccurate.

The project also struck a major environmental concern with the presence of contaminated soil and water.

“There were old galvanising plants in Northbridge and they caused a problem,” Mr Purdy said.

The water, turned acidic as a result of byproducts of the plants, needed to be neutralised before it could be pumped into the Swan River.

Mr Purdy said the tunnel would be a comfortable drive for Perth motorists.

The tunnel and remainder of the Graham Farmer Freeway project should cut considerable time off a number of motoring journeys.

At the posted speed limit of eighty kilometres an hour, the 1.6 kilometre tunnel journey is expected to take seventy-five seconds.

“The roadway is well signposted and the entries and exits will all work well,” Mr Purdy said.

“I think Perth drivers will learn quickly to use it.”

Mr Purdy said the tunnel had also helped to clean up Northbridge.

Land over the tunnel will now be redeveloped and turned into an East Perth Redevelopment Authority area-like enclave.

However, unlike the EPRA area, the WA Government has promised the provision of low-cost housing in the redevelopment.

The tunnel project will also prove to be Mr Purdy’s professional swansong.

He is staying on to bed down the ten year maintenance contract the BCJV holds on the tunnel before retiring.

“This is not a bad project to finish on,” Mr Purdy said.

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