Brisbane City Council is about to spend $115 million of ratepayers’ money converting a 700-metre stretch of Lytton Road in East Brisbane from four lanes to six. This is only stage 1 of the ‘Wynnum Road Corridor Upgrade’ – a major road-widening project which will cost several hundred million dollars over the next ten years, but which will fail to significantly reduce congestion.
The project has some merits. There are several trouble-spots along Lytton/Wynnum Road that urgently need right-hand turn lanes or significant intersection upgrades. But these can be achieved without a wholesale widening of the entire road corridor. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars resuming dozens (possibly hundreds) of homes just to add two lanes is not value-for-money infrastructure. That money would be better spent on targeted intersection upgrades, safer pedestrian crossings and public transport.
Research from around the world clearly demonstrates that if you increase a road’s capacity, new motorists will choose to drive and fill the extra space. If you widen roads, travel time doesn’t significantly improve – you just get more cars on the road, which means more noise and air pollution, and in the case of Wynnum Road, more traffic funnelled into the already-congested Kangaroo Point/Story Bridge bottleneck.
Instead of widening Wynnum Road, council should first seek to reduce traffic congestion with a high-frequency bus route and peak-hour transit lanes. Currently, buses along Wynnum Road are infrequent and unreliable, meaning many residents of the inner-eastern suburbs who might otherwise catch public transport are choosing to drive.
A green bridge (bus, bike and pedestrian) from Bulimba to Teneriffe or Hawthorne to New Farm would be a better way to spend several hundred million dollars, and would help shift more commuters onto public transport.
For months, I have repeatedly asked Councillor Cooper to publish the business case and feasibility studies for the project online so they can be publicly scrutinised and debated, but she has refused to do so. The lack of transparency around such an expensive project is undemocratic and reckless.
For years, residents along Lytton Road were told it would only ever be widened to five lanes at most. If the BCC wants to forcibly resume the homes of long-term residents to go to six lanes, it must publish clear research justifying the project.
Greenlighting a project worth hundreds of millions of dollars without publishing a robust business case is borderline scandalous.
Most Brisbanites are still unaware that if the project goes ahead, much of the land which is forcibly acquired from residents will not actually be used for the road-widening, but will be sold back to private developers. Make of that what you will.
The Wynnum Road Corridor Upgrade smacks of short-term thinking, and Brisbane ratepayers should be outraged that both Labor and the LNP think it’s appropriate to fritter money away on a project with such serious question marks about its long-term effectiveness.