WARRINGAH TRAFFIC WOES
When the NSW government unveiled its plans for the new world-class 400-bed, nine-storey Northern Beaches Hospital at Frenchs Forest, it was met with a mixed reaction from Manly-Warringah residents. Under the area's transformation, by 2200, an additional 4000 people are expected to live in the new town centre, and an estimated 4300 new jobs are set to be created through the hospital and ground floor retail.
Northern Beaches Council administrator Dick Persson claims, "Frenchs Forest [will be] a highly sought after destination not just for those living nearby, but from all over the Northern Beaches."
But residents and former Warringah mayor Michael Regan insist the revamped suburb won't attract anyone else unless long-standing transport issues are resolved.
The Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has decided to spend $500 million on a 1.3-kilometre road around the hospital to relieve the congestion and improve access. But peninsula residents say the plan virtually ignores public transport.
"The current road construction is to fix the existing problems (that should have been fixed 20 years ago) and to cater for the hospital," Michael Regan tells Peninsula Living. "We need more, and better, public transport. People will use it if it's efficient and saves them money."
Health Minister and Wakehurst MP, Brad Hazzard, tells Peninsula Living that while Northern Beaches residents are worried about the local transport. "It's not an either/or - it's 'let's get the roads and local transport’.”
"We need to make sure public transport along that corridor and to and from the hospital is addressed. And as the local MP, that's well and truly on my radar."
The new bypass - due to be completed next year - will be 12 lanes wide in some parts.
Warringah Road will drop down into a 'slot' under Wakehurst Parkway, with four ground-level westbound lanes, four eastbound, and four lanes below ground level. There will also be pedestrian and cycling lanes.
"The roadworks are being brought forward by 15 to 20 years; adds Hazzard. "These improvements would have had to happen anyway as the peninsula population grows naturally, but the building around the new hospital has accelerated the need."
Currently 56 per cent of people who live on the Northern Beaches also work in the area, but now that figure will rise -some claim the $500 million bypass is a waste of money.
"The slot's useless," says peninsula resident Tim Pace.
"This new road starts a few hundred metres east of Wakehurst Parkway, and finishes about 300 metres past Forest Way. You've got this great bit of road in the middle that bottlenecks either side of the same road that always existed. It's pointless because the traffic going through will then be stuck in Forestville, and Warringah Road, past Wakehurst Parkway.
"Rail is a much better, long-term strategic way of creating public transport that works and will last for at least the next 50 years," Tim adds.
Regan is lobbying the state government to improve public transport and build an interchange, saying, "Without it, they're limiting any potential growth for it becoming a true town centre. In the state government's metropolitan plan, there are no plans for an east west bus rapid transit system.
"They're nutbags. I don't think the state government appreciates or knows what it's doing. A decent interchange connection would make a huge difference to the peninsula.
"If you had a bus or tram every five to 10 minutes, problem solved. Chatswood is very congested. Perhaps Roseville Station could be an option?"
Regan claims this would mean commuters could easily access the Northwest rail link, Central Coast rail link and the City link, so there would be less cars on the road.
However, Hazzard claims installing a rail line is unrealistic.
"To make that viable would mean a massive increase in density," he says.
"Years ago, we had a Section 22 Committee looking at the possibility of rail and light rail along the peninsula. We were advised that, in order to make it sustainable, rather than using hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars, we'd need to have massively increased densities for the entire length of the railway," Hazzard explains. "I don't think that's going to happen in the next few years. I think the answer is getting better bus services. I've been to lots of meetings and expect that to be resolved by the time the hospital opens.
"If the state government pulls its finger out and gives us better public transport, then we can put more dwellings in and everyone's happy."