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Adelaide "on the back foot" as Govt withholds city roads cash

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Lord Mayor Martin Haese says his council is now playing catch-up on key city transport projects after yesterday’s Budget failed to deliver on a series of flagged joint projects between state and local governments.

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Haese told InDaily he was “disappointed” that “urgent” upgrades to Grenfell Street and North Terrace West had not made the budget cut, arguing the former is mainly the Weatherill Government’s responsibility.

However, he said he thought the $10,000 jobs grant scheme, the $500,000 business case for a contemporary art gallery, $32 million upgrades to Her Majesty’s Theatre – along with the pre-announced $50 million tram line along North Terrace and $15 million laneways upgrades – were “great” for the city.

Haese said Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis’s third Budget had “a pretty strong city focus”, but that he was disappointed not to find any funding for Grenfell Street or the western half of North Terrace in the Budget papers.

He said the roads were about to be hit by an influx of up to 30 per cent more buses (Grenfell Street) and thousands of extra pedestrians (western half of North Terrace) and that on both counts, the council was now “on the back foot, and I don’t think we should be”.

“Our to-do list is … exceeding our resources,” said Haese.

Haese said the most urgent priority was the state of the road surface on Grenfell Street, on which a large number of extra busses will travel once the Government’s O-Bahn extension is complete.

He said it was primarily the Government’s responsibility to upgrade the Grenfell Street because it was Government buses that would impact the road, coming out of the Government’s O-Bahn extension.

“The street surface hardly copes now,” Haese told InDaily.

“It surely is going to cope at least less [well] in 18 months time… I don’t think we can afford to bury our head in the sand.”

He said the street needed upgrades that would be “something considerably more substantial” than replacing current infrastructure in a “like-for-like” redevelopment, but that he had received no assurance from the Government that it would fund, or help fund, the road upgrade in future.

It was “definitely something we don’t want to do on our own”, said Haese.

Council transport experts have warned the western end of North Terrace was due for a “tidal wave” of pedestrians when the new Royal Adelaide Hospital opens next year.

Haese told InDaily there had been little work done to understand the transport impacts of the new hospital, and “something needs to be done”.

“I don’t think we even understand all the dynamics.

“We don’t have any preliminary designs [for an upgrade]… all we know is it’s going to get a lot busier.”

He said the Government and the council needed to urgently assess how to transport “a couple of hundred nurses coming off shift at 3am” where there are currently no bus routes that continue at that time, among other transport issues related to the hospital.

“We need to get together with the government and say ‘what does this hospital mean’ [for pedestrian, car and public transport]?”

He said it was now likely the hospital would open before works could begin on the western half of North Terrace.

City of Adelaide Minister John Rau said the Budget had provided significant funding for projects to improve the liveability of the city centre.

“Over the next two years, $50 million will be spent on extending the tram along North Terrace to the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site,” said Rau.

“The tram extension supports developing inner Adelaide as an attractive place to live and work.

“This financial year, $7.3 million has been allocated to revitalise the Market to Riverbank laneway link – this will incorporate paved footpaths, street canopy, public art, improved lighting and street furniture.”

Any funding for the extension and upgrade of Frome Street bikeway was also absent from yesterday’s Budget, though Haese said he was confident in a “future collaboration” with the State Government to deliver the upgrades, and an east-west bikeway to complement them.

He said he had “the greatest confidence” in Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan’s commitment to city cycling infrastructure.

Rau said there needs to be “a proper and considered proposal” for any project, and “the State Government and Adelaide City Council are not at that stage yet” for Grenfell Street, the western streetscape of North Terrace, Frome Street Bikeway or a new Victoria Square redevelopment.

Mullighan said the Government was in continuing discussions with the council regarding the bikeway.

“We are continuing our discussions with the council about its proposed changes to Frome Street and how those changes will fit into broader improvements to cycling facilities across the CBD,” Mullighan said.

“We are continuing to fund cycling projects across the state and yesterday’s Budget included a $10m investment to improve infrastructure to promote low carbon forms of transport, such as cycling.”

He told InDaily late last year that the Government was “keen to see both a north-south and east-west corridor for cycling in the city, and a considerable amount of work has already been put into Frome Street by the council as part of a north-south corridor, but there is more work to do”.

There was also no funding set aside in the Budget to “square” Victoria Square – City of Adelaide Minister John Rau told InDaily in February the six-piece square was a “completely failed piece of design” and part of a $20 million parklands fund could be used to transform it.

The Government announced last month that $5 million out of that parklands fund would go towards the upgrade of Marshmallow Park.

But Haese said a potential new redevelopment of Victoria Square “isn’t the highest priority” for the council or the Government.

“It’s still on the radar, but … we’ve got other more pressing matters.”

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