New documents show a myriad of problems in building a new lane on a major Hobart highway, including a cost blowout, a “significant risk” of rock fall during construction, and “unavoidable significant impacts to traffic.”
The government promised in 2018 to build a fifth lane on the Southern Outlet, which links Hobart with its southern suburbs.
Work is scheduled to start next year.
The documents, obtained by Labor under right to information laws, show a minute signed by Transport and Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson last August, where he acknowledged a “significant shortfall in the funding allocation” for the project.
The new estimated cost of completing the project has been redacted, but the document states it is “well in excess of the original $51 million budget commitment allocated in 2021”.
The documents also show that a significant risk of rock fall during construction was identified as part of “extensive site investigations and further assessment of the rock face”.
“The vibration and rock-breaking work associated with construction of the transit lane is likely to result in rock fall that may enter the traffic lanes without further rock stability and rock fall projection works,” the advice provided by the State Growth Department states.
“Consequently it is recommended that rock face excavation, rock stability and rock fall protection works be completed ahead of the construction of the transit lane and issued as a separate tender ahead of works on the lane due to its technical complexities.
“This is an addition to the original budget for the transit lane.”
A State Growth Department spokesperson said the rock face work was expected to start in the middle of this year, and take about a year to complete.
The briefing note also states that despite efforts to keep all lanes of the outlet operating during construction work, all options required “extended” closures of at least one lane.
“Extended lane closures will result in significant traffic disruptions to the road users and further broader disruption to Hobart-based business and community services including health and education,” the note states.
In the project’s risk register it also states there is a chance that it could prevent critical vehicles from travelling to and from central Hobart, which it said could lead to issues including “delays getting patients’ care and avoidable fatalities”.
Calls to abandon project
The opposition has consistently criticised the project as having limited benefit for motorists.
Labor MP Dean Winter said the documents showed a fifth lane “simply doesn’t stack up”, and he called on the government to abandon it.
“This is not going to make things better for Kingborough and Huon residents, this is going to make things much, much worse,” Mr Winter said.
“It doesn’t make any sense, it’s going to cost millions of dollars, probably over $100 million to do this to get no benefit.
“We’re all for building and making sure that Tasmania is growing, but we need to work on smart projects.
“This is a dumb idea, a dumb project that is just going to make congestion worse.”
Mr Ferguson said the fifth lane was “the only solution to improving commuter traffic flow”, particularly in peak morning periods.
He said the government would work with stakeholders and the company selected to build the fifth lane to minimise traffic disruptions.
He said work to free up room on Macquarie and Davey streets had also been designed to start before construction work on the fifth lane, in a bid to “ease the pressure valve”.
The state government compulsorily acquired three properties, and parts of four others, in the Hobart suburb of Dynnyrne to make way for the extra lane.