By 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.
In 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.
“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.
“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.
Four lanes through Gap: Does Alice need them?
By ERWIN CHLANDA