The Commonwealth Bridge over troubled water?

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Bridges, footpaths and bearded women (well, one really) all in “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE. 

BRIDGE is the word of the week for me; the one on Commonwealth Avenue and the club in Fyshwick. 

Ian Meikle.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge has been top of mind since the recent announcement that the federal government was going to spend $137 million on its refurbishment. 

It’s an elegant example of its time and construction began in March, 1961, when Canberra was in drought and it was built over a dry riverbed before being opened in November, 1963. It took until the following April for Lake Burley Griffin to fill for the first time.

I hadn’t realised that sewer mains are cleverly incorporated into the superstructure and the south-east pylon is actually a vent. I also discovered that when Waterloo Bridge in London was demolished in 1936, some of the large, flat stones from it were donated to the Australian government. Heaven knows why, but they can be seen under the bridge, on the northern shore.

So, what’s happening now? With 700 jobs on offer, the NCA is going to strengthen the bridge to prevent structural damage, widen pedestrian pathways and replace vehicle-safety barriers. 

Tellingly there was no mention in the funding or scope of works of the ACT government’s unapproved, but naked ambition to hoik the tram over the lake and (now) on to Mawson. So is Commonwealth Bridge in or out of the project?

Who knows, but within a week of the funding announcement, up pops tram driver Chief Minister Andrew Barr and his ticket-collecting Transport Minister Chris Steel both terribly keen to share the news that the federal government had just granted environmental approval for the 1.7-kilometre Stage 2a construction of light rail from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park.

Planning approvals are still to come from the NCA and the ACT Planning and Land Authority, but the project will raise the London Circuit road level on either side of Commonwealth Avenue. That’ll take two years to complete. 

Reporter Andrew Mathieson was able to confirm at the city terminus press call that riding the three-stop rails to Commonwealth Park will take until (election year) 2024. 

The cost for 2a is reckoned to be $707 million. Heaven knows what the trip to Mawson is going to cost. 

Which gets us to the reality check in Jon Stanhope’s column this week (Page 11). 

He’s got an FOI copy of the ACT public service briefs prepared for incoming ministers in light of the recent ACT election in which Treasury bluntly warns: “The current gap between spending and taxation is not… sustainable over the medium term, and as soon as practically possible the government will need to put in place a detailed strategy to return the budget to balance and start repaying debt.”

If it sounds familiar, ex-chief minister Stanhope has been saying much the same for years now, but the profligate government isn’t listening to him, nor Treasury it would seem. 

AND the other bridge… in December Belinda Strahorn reported the impending demise of the Grand Slam Bridge Centre in Fyshwick after 31 years under the ownership of Anne Weber

A search for a possible buyer has borne no fruit and Anne’s folding her hand on Friday, March 5. 

“The thing about bridge is it’s really good for the mind, it keeps it active, you are always learning and it’s so friendly, it draws people from all walks of life,” she told Belle. 

“So many friendships have been made here and that’s the biggest thing they are going to miss is the friends.” 

IN the last edition I wrote about the statistically sad state of repair of Canberra footpaths. There are thousands of little, painted, white arrows marking what must be kilometres of neglected pavements in a situation made more farcical by the ACT government’s five years of extolling the virtues of its Age Friendly Suburbs Program (“an ACT government commitment to improve path network infrastructure and connectivity in suburbs that include a large proportion of residents aged over 55 years”), which runs out of budget funding this year. 

Footpath-fall victim Cheryl Guthrie.

Cheryl Guthrie, of Jerrabomberra, has shared this shocking photo of herself, a victim of a footpath fall in Benjamin Way, Belconnen, in October 2018. 

“It was only repaired in January, 2019, after many phone calls. Legal action is being taken.” No surprises there. Anyone else got a footpath tale to tell? (



Bearded member for Eden-Monaro.

AT the risk of sounding sexist, I have to admit women in beards do nothing for me. But it would seem to be a state the federal member for Eden-Monaro relishes. 

For there on Queanbeyan’s main drag, outside Kristy McBain’s electorate office is an image of the politician in a full, flowing white beard. At first glance, one might think it was just a Christmas affectation, but it must be something more serious… I mean, it is February already!


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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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