Fremantle Society: "Fremantle Traffic Bridge needs to be saved regardless"

Bridge of Broken Promises

Main Roads has $130 million available for a new Fremantle bridge and soon will announce their plans.

But will we get a bridge of broken promises like we did 15 years ago when, ahead of the State Election, Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan promised to save the old traffic bridge, and ditched that after winning the election on the grounds of cost? Alannah is still a hard working, dynamic politician, but has much to answer for in Fremantle, having denied community and council opposition against high rise ING on Victoria Quay, handed the Royal George Hotel to the National Trust without consulting East Fremantle Council (look at that mess now), and ditched her promise about our bridge.

The community and Fremantle Council have made their views known repeatedly - keep the existing bridge, whether we get a new one or not.

North Fremantle Cr Thompson (2005): "Extension of the life of the current bridge should be the first priority."

North Fremantle Convenor Gerry MacGill (2005): " Main Roads has some of the country's best timber conservation specialists."

CEO of National Trust Tom Perrigo (2008): "The bridge is sound and shouldn't be touched."

The images above show the opening program for the current bridge in 1939. Because it was thought the Japanese might bomb Fremantle, the previous bridge as seen on the right in the two photographs was kept (until 1949). In fact Fremantle also had two traffic bridges back in 1898 when a second bridge was built alongside the then existing 1866 bridge, and the two co-existed for some years.

Next month Main Roads will propose a new bridge, leaving the current one in place until the new one is built. Then, for " cost and safety"  reasons, Main Roads will want to demolish the current timber bridge. The Fremantle Society at its recent meeting voted that: "The existing heritage listed Fremantle Traffic Bridge must be kept."

We are yet to see what Main Roads will propose for a new bridge. Will we get something iconic for that large sum of money ($130 million, a lot more than the $30 million proposed in 2005), or a dreary concrete bridge  like so many others?  Main Roads has a poor reputation with unsightly urban design, as any intersection in WA will attest, and the damage to the heritage values and aesthetics of the current bridge railings by Main Roads some years ago needs to be undone.

The Fremantle Traffic Bridge has the highest State heritage rating, because it is of significance. If there is no future for trucks and vehicles on the bridge, it can continue to exist for pedestrians and cyclists.

As former Fremantle Council Heritage Architect, and current Fremantle Society Committee member Agnieshka Kiera said in 2005: "The major guiding principle of conservation is to extend the economic life of a significant place for as long as possible."

No more broken promises.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

images: Dowson collection

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