Four lanes through Gap: Does Alice need them?

p2390-gap-flyover-2By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The NT Government is calling tenders to “identify solutions for the future duplication of the Stuart Highway through The Gap” although this issue was discussed thoroughly eight years ago. In the meantime the town’s population figures are stagnant, and although there’s residential development south of the Gap, it’s hardly exploding. This would suggest there is no urgency for spending money on this.

 

The government, which refers in a media release to the South Stuart Highway as “the alternative route to Uluru,” says doubling the road capacity is needed to create an “all-weather connection” although the infrequent flooding of The Gap is – again – the subject of a flood mitigation study.

 

It will include the controversial suggestion for a dam upstream from the Telegraph Station, opposed by sacred sites custodians.

 

p2390-gap-flyover-4In any case traffic south can be diverted through Honeymoon Gap on the rare occasions when The Gap is flooded. This is contrary to the claim in the media release that through The Gap is “the only sealed road link” connecting the NT and SA.

 

“Respecting the cultural significance” of the Todd River is also an objective, according to the release.

 

“With the development of the AZRI site and potentially ASAC [airport] land and industrial land south of The Gap, it likely that four lanes on the Stuart Highway will be required within The Gap,” said an Opus Qantec McWilliam report presented to a town planning forum in 2008, suggesting an elevated “flyover” (pictured) as one option.

 

But the development of the AZRI site – now the suburb of Kilgariff – is sluggish and there is clearly no current need for residential or commercial real estate on the airport land, with home prices in town in decline and much existing industrial and commercial real estate empty.

 

“One option is to provide a high level dual carriageway through The Gap,” says the 2008 Opus report.

 

“At this stage [it] does not include the railway. Preliminary costing [is] in the order of $15m.

 

p2390-gap-flyover-1“Benefits include: Ability to upgrade trunk services economically by utilising the underside of structure; reduce flooding within Alice Springs due to increased capacity in the Todd River at The Gap by removing the existing road; returning the river to its natural state; will support all development south of The Gap.”

 

Kieran Finnane reported in the Alice Springs News Online on June 12, 2008, under the heading Wake up, town centre: “The strongest consensus at last Thursday’s planning forum, attended by some 100 locals, was not around ‘bricks and mortar’ type changes, but rather on how people want to live in the town.

 

p2390-gap-flyover-3“Overwhelmingly, the small discussion groups supported the need for enlivening the CBD with people and activity, especially after business hours, as well as a new focus on Todd River – ‘the town’s great asset’.”

 

Not much has happened in this regard. The major investments have been in Kilgariff (even if its development is sluggish) and the Supreme Court building in the centre of town, which is unlikely to do much for after-hours life in the CBD.

 

 

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15 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Ray
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Yes, there is no danger so let’s not invest resources. Tell that to the Masters Games cricketer who was dragged out of his car and flogged (did he die? Can’t remember.)
    Tell that to my friend who had his head caved in with a house brick and his girlfriend stabbed in the shoulder.
    Tell that to the tourist who had their car flogged at the caravan park about two weeks ago with all their belongings in it.
    Tell the two girls who were raped at gunpoint when camping in their van next to Stephens Road.
    Tell it to the business owners who can no longer afford to keep paying the insurance premiums, so the tourists have fewer restaurants and shops to visit in the mall.
    Tell it to the tourist industry who have to negate the reports of feral youth running through the streets at night making tourists afraid to venture out at night.
    But it is all OK, because other towns have crime, so its all good, we do not need to react to it.
    Tell that to the locals who are leaving because they cannot drive down the main street without some drunken feral fighting in the middle of the road or chucking rocks at your brand new car.
    Or the new mum who gets her car set on fire so some desperado can use it as a diversion to buy some grog.
    It is not so much the offenders that are the problem but the tree huggers and apologists that refuse to demand this social decay is addressed, and puts up with it so as to save the feelings of the perpetrators.
    Unbelievable.

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  2. Rural Resident
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    What is needed is a railway tunnel and the present Stuart Highway elevated and expanded to four lanes in place of the rail line and easement.
    There is no doubt this would be vehemently opposed and probably immediately identified as a sacred site by the local indigenous population, however, approval could probably be negotiated by a generous compensation package.
    Such a tunnel would, however, create some social problems as seen recently by someone trying to jump onto a moving train. Locked gates may be the answer, that could be opened by the train driver or the rail operator at times of expected rail traffic.
    I see none of our councilors or politicians seem to promote what seems an obvious solution?

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  3. Fred the Philistine
    Posted January 7, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    You are all missing the point. This town is a service town for the Indigenous.
    People only come here for the work. If this town did not have social security moneys, this town would be even smaller. There is nothing here to attract people except for work.
    You also have people who take advantage of the Indigenous, e.g. taxi drivers. This town is controlled by very few people.
    What annoys me is the police at the bottle shops. This should be funded by the bottle shops themselves. Why should the tax payers pay for it?
    Take the social moneys and the government grants out of this town and see what you’ve got.
    A four lane highway through The Gap should have been built in the beginning.
    Things here have been done so slovenly, but have made alot of people rich. There is no town planning in this town.
    Maybe we need to get someone like Donald Trump to kick some arses and sack a few councillors and employ some who will get the job done.

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  4. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Fix the crimes! Make the town safe!
    Maestro, put some music on this leitmotiv, please.
    I would like to ask to all who keep repeating this same old song where in the world is there a safe place?
    Ah! But yes the tourists! I hear wherever the tourists come from they are not more in danger here than in their home town … who knows, maybe less.
    Did the break and enter of IGA last night affect the tourists?
    Did the wife bashing and kids screaming affect the tourists?
    Nobody is really safe from anything or anyone in this world.
    Crime is everywhere. You walk out your house door, you will be mugged, you jump into your car, and somebody may already be sitting there.

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  5. James T Smerk
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Make the town safe before you do any improvements please. No use in having a beautiful town if no-one wants to visit due to the crime.

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  6. Just Saying
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 8:46 am

    No.

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  7. Willliam Moore
    Posted January 5, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    There is supposed to be a new highway coming from the west. Through this town. Which will never be a city. Which will never develop any more than it has.
    Too many people looking after the locals, for the money and to hell with the town that will never be a city.
    Port Augusta, a small town, has bigger prospects than this town. Moving forward is the name of progress. Not this town. There is no intention of letting this town grow.
    Someone keeps saying oh we tried that once it didn’t work out then it will not work out now. The council needs to close and administration put in place to sort this place out.

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  8. Posted January 5, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Pam Hooper is correct (Posted January 5, 2017 at 8:57 am) – plans for a four-lane highway through Heavitree Gap were under consideration by the NT Government 30 years ago, and the government also announced the commencement of the Undoolya subdivision in 1987.
    All the official government planning studies for the future growth of Alice Springs from the Whitlam period in the early 1970s through to the late 1980s under the original CLP regime recommended that development of the town must go eastwards, not south.
    Heavitree Gap was considered to be a significant bottleneck impeding road transport development required to service urban development south of the main range.
    The NT Government was also keen to maintain the scenic approach to Alice Springs south of the Gap by refusing ribbon development along the south Stuart Highway.
    The NT Government also announced in 1986 that an all-weather bridge over the Todd River linking South Terrace to the then new golf course development would be constructed to the south of the notorious Casino Causeway (renamed Taffy Pick Crossing a decade later), with the causeway itself to be removed. This was part of a larger plan to integrate the new tourist precinct (casino and hotels on the east bank of the Todd River) with the Stuart Highway.
    The plan featured a large roundabout to replace the confusing maze of roads just north of Heavitree Gap – and this ultimately was the only part of the plan to be constructed, nearly a decade later in 1994.
    The major flood of 1988 changed the government’s plans; instead all attention was focussed on the construction of a flood mitigation dam cum recreational lake to the north of town.
    If the dam proceeded, there would be no requirement for new bridges over the Todd River. The resultant controversy for the next four years led to the Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Robert Tickner in 1992 imposing a moratorium preventing construction of the dam for 20 years.
    By then Australia was enduring a national economic recession which severely impacted on Alice Springs, slowing growth of the town to a snail’s pace from which it has never recovered.
    The Undoolya subdivision announced in 1987, which was intended to cater for population growth of up to 50,000 residents in Alice Springs, was put on hold and then faded into obscurity.
    It was also in 1992 that the High Court of Australia handed down the Mabo decision, recognising native title rights across much of Australia.
    Crucially this decision allowed for compensation to apply to land where native title may have been extinguished by development after 1975.
    If the Undoolya subdivision had proceeded as originally plannned in the late 1980s, this would have been subject to compensation for the extinguishment of native title over that land.
    In the early 2000s the NT Government under Labor negotiated with native title holders for limited urban expansion in the Larapinta and Mt Johns areas, and in so doing established a price for land that has made development prohibitively expensive.
    Thus it was that the Henderson Labor Government turned its attention to AZRI in 2009 for future urban expansion, as this land was not subject to native title claims, and so leading to the establishment of the highly inappropriate Kilgariff outpost along the south Stuart Highway and overturning all previous official planning policies from the Whitlam government onwards.
    (All of this notwithstanding that a major citrus farm development utilizing sewerage effluent planned for AZRI in late 1992 – early 1993 was abandoned after objections from traditional owners on native title grounds; this was touted by Chief Minister Marshall Perron as the first development project in Australia to be frustrated by native title claims).
    And so on it goes …

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  9. Steve Brown
    Posted January 5, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    There have been several versions of this idea presented to various forums and committees over the years. The concept is really a linear bridge, one that runs up and down the river as opposed to running across it.
    This would allow the removal of the compacted rubble build up that supports the existing road, allowing the river to return to its original width underneath reducing any flood risk caused by restricting the flow.
    Of course this would also mean the relocation of the many very expensive services that run underneath it.
    I personally like the idea if it allows us to maintain the iconic town entrance for the Ghan and road traffic that many travellers have on their itineraries as a must see.
    Of course we can survive without four lanes for the immediate future, however taking a long term view of both town and Territory growth, and several large projects on the immediate horizon for our region, it is clearly a future infrastructure project that we should be progressing.
    I’ve been calling for a staged development plan for the Gap and connecting infrastructure incorporating a rail overpass, the upgrade of Gap Road along with the Taffy Pick crossing and interconnect road to Undoolya for some considerable time.
    Given the massive expenditure involved it is likely to take a number of years to fund in its entirety which is why we should have an agreed development plan for the area that we can progress over time.
    By the way, the artistic impression is not the best I’ve seen, I have seen the idea portrayed as quite an attractive looking structure.
    From a building point of view, it is always more affordable today, than it will be tomorrow!

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  10. James
    Posted January 5, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Very true, Ray.

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  11. Ray
    Posted January 5, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Unfortunately unless they fix this current youth crime wave it’s only the roads out of town that will need to be duplicated.

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  12. Posted January 5, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Of course, you could always punch a rail tunnel through the mountain, if the rock will stand it, and ignore any sacred site considerations, if any exist.

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  13. Posted January 5, 2017 at 9:53 am

    A four-lane road from Commonage Road to either the Adelaide turnoff, or even right to the airport is needed, and would be a cakewalk to provide.
    We have all endured the experience of a slow run behind a slow moving vehicle and no overtake opportunities.
    The Grey Nomads need a rest area too, and a roadhouse at a few suggested locations would be great. If you are at the airport and need fuel, your nearest retailer is Gap Road.
    Getting the four lanes through The Gap is the challenge.
    The artist’s impression, bridge over nothing, is not needed.
    Am I the only one to notice that the road and rail tracks are level at each end, but the road dips almost two metres in The Gap itself?
    If the road surface was raised to rail level all the way through, the result would be a structure wide enough to provide a four-lane carriageway, a walkway, and with one lane of shared right of way with the rail tracks, obviously needing a means of separation of road / rail traffic when there is actually a train present.

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  14. Pam Hooper
    Posted January 5, 2017 at 8:57 am

    This has been discussed for much longer than 2008.
    I remember discussions about a “cantilever” road through the Gap during the 1980s when it was anticipated population would grow hugely in the next decade, with housing to extend in the direction of Undoolya.
    I do wonder about having any structure in the Gap which may cause water to dam up and flood the town in a big flood event.

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  15. Fred the Philistine
    Posted January 5, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I would think a four lane highway needs to be done, from air terminal to town.
    The tracks like a billy goat track a tunnel through the hill with train in it as well.
    The road to the airport has very little overtaking lanes. After all we want tourism we need better facilities.

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