Each day thousands of motorists and freight drivers in Perth’s south-east brave the congested southern end of the Tonkin Highway – poised for a long-awaited $505m extension.
As one of the fastest growing communities in the state, the road is becoming ill equipped to accommodate the number of vehicles utilising the route – with Thomas and Nicholson roads averaging one crash every month.
Over the last two years the Federal Government has allocated $404m to the Stage Three Extension, which will see the 45 kilometre highway expanded through a 14 kilometre four-lane extension from Byford to Mundijong.
The State Government has agreed to contribute the remaining $101m to fund the extension, but it was noticeably absent from the list of 24 projects fast-tracked last week to support the economy in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – which has halted employment for 80,000 West Australians.
Member for Darling Range Alyssa Hayden said the extension should be made a priority, as should local recruitment for the road’s construction, calling on the State Government to progress the extension.
“I am totally disappointed for this community,” Mrs Hayden said.
“This is the fastest growing area in the state right now.
“We have mums and dads on the road trying to get kids to school, we’ve got people trying to get to work – this project would make the trip safer.
“The money is there, they just need to get on and do the job.
“We get people visiting us to discuss this route every single day.
“We’re coming out of COVID-19 and there are a lot of construction workers in my community and this is a project that would have them working close to home.
“Why deprive them of that and infrastructure that is going to save their lives?”
Her sentiments were echoed by Shadow Transport Minister Libby Mettam, who said the infrastructure was vital for the freight industry, small businesses and local residents and the only thing missing was a commitment from the State Government and a start date.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the State Government was also eager to fast-track the project, but was waiting on the Federal Environmental Authority to return the results of last year’s flora and fauna surveys.
“The McGowan government is embarking on a record investment in road and rail infrastructure across WA,” she said.
“The Tonkin Highway extension forms a key part of this plan.
“Main Roads is working with Infrastructure Australia on the final stages of its assessment process.
“We are keen to fast-track this project but are dependent on the Federal Environmental Authority returning the results from its environmental assessment.
“It is the McGowan government that got this project on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list, secured federal funding, and undertook the business case work that the previous Liberal-National government failed to do.”
Mrs Hayden said the state government had remained coy about the progress of the project and insisted that the delay was at the state end.
The extension is expected to start in late 2021.