A UQ post-graduate architecture student has proposed a radical idea to turn one of Brisbane’s biggest eyesores into a new international destination in its own right.
Brendan Roffey’s idea is simple, turn the Riverside Expressway into a Riverside Greenway and redirect motorway traffic into a new South Bank tunnel, thereby ‘liberating’ the riverfront and creating a new ‘Green Expressway’ or Greenway.
Under the concept plan, a massive 150,000 square metres of developable land would be unlocked for new development and public amenity in Woolloongabba, an area which is larger than the Queens Wharf Priority Development Area.
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Brendan explains that the concept idea would transform Brisbane’s city centre by essentially removing cars from the CBD all together.
“The REX is crumbling, congests the city and cuts off Northbank”, he explains.
“When thinking of a ‘world city’, I am reminded that great cities have green hearts. For Brisbane, Southbank is a successful example of a popular green hub. Across the river, Brisbane’s North Bank is choked by the Riverside Expressway which facilitates large volumes of traffic – bringing congestion, pollution and danger to our city.”
“In contrast, cities around the world have been shutting their disused or undesirable city infrastructure to make way for exciting public amenity. New York converted an abandoned railway into the now-famous ‘High-Line’.”
“Madrid moved their riverside freeway into an underground tunnel, converting the former highway into a riverfront park. These precedents are innovative examples of tackling congestion and freeing land for future development opportunities.”
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In response to the conversion, the Pacific Motorway will essentially split in two directions at Woolloongabba. Traffic would be funnelled into the Clem7 heading north and into a new South Bank tunnel which would connect to the go-between Bridge.
Under the concept plan, the new tunnel would be three lanes each way, running underneath South Bank and would use innovative Uber-like surge pricing for tolls (more expensive during peak). The new tunnel would effectively complete an inner city ring road and accomodate 65,000 cars from the current expressway daily. Other modes such as bus transit and cycling would take the remainder of travel movements.
The 2km long Riverside Expressway (REX) which began construction in 1968 was last year named Queensland’s most congested stretch of road by the Department of Transport and Main Roads. Traffic speeds on the REX during peak afternoon times average 19km per hour.
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“It achieves a ‘slimmed down’ third leg of Transapex, through a comparatively short, 2.7km tunnel from the Gabba to Kurilpa, via Southbank and completes the Inner-City Ring Road”, Brendan said.
- 2.7km tunnel
- Estimated $1 billion cost, does not go under the Brisbane River and shallow cut and cover construction for majority of the tunnel
- Fulfils elements of the TransApex plans
- Toll cost varies with congestion
- Local traffic prioritised
- Pedestrianisation of CBD
Riverside Greenway Development
Under the plan, 150,000 square metres of unlocked land would become what is known as ‘The Hub’. A massive converging precinct boasting new inner-city schools, a hospital, retail and between 3000-4000 of residential in-fill dwellings which would be built on-top of Cross River Rail’s Woolloongabba Station and a huge park and ride terminal.
The Hub would also feature a pedestrian spine which connects to The Gabba and Marter Hospitals.
Brendan explains that the Greenway plan would be cost neutral over a 20 year period, achieving more with the same amount of funding currently put up for the Brisbane Metro.
“This development will densify Brisbane, assist with housing affordability and will offset the costs of the proposed works and public amenity.”
“The budgeted $5.2 billion and $1.6 billion allocated for Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro would generate almost $7 billion of economic benefit. On the other hand, the combined Riverside Greenway Plan would generate $10 billion at no additional cost to the government.”
The concept plan allocates the following dollar amounts to various infrastructure and public enhancement projects:
Asked about the likelihood of this ever evolving from concept idea to the drawing board, Brendan says he is optimistic.
“I am optimistic that the Brisbane City Council, State and Federal Governments will swallow their pride and come together to solve Inner-City Bus, Rail and Car gridlock for good and I think that the solution will look very similar to the Riverside Greenway proposal,” Brendan said.
Creating a landmark doesn’t always come in the form of super-tall skyscrapers or unusual architecture, but also creating spaces for people. By doing something radical like the Riverside Greenway, Brisbane would effectively be humanising its city core and adding to Brisbane’s liveability advancement.
The Brisbane City Council’s new Building’s that Breathe guidelines are already making head waves with turning Brisbane’s future architecture into breathable buildings. So what better proposal to truely turn Brisbane into a subtropical, liveable, breathable place for people.
The Rio-Madrid highway conversion and Boston’s ‘Big Dig’ project are the closest examples of large-scale highway conversions. Converting the REX to a place for the people, a 2km green garden, square, observation space, cycleway, busway (the lot), all integrating with the colossal $3 billion Queens Wharf precinct.
This would be monumental on world standards, let alone Australia. A true wow moment for our city. Question is, are Brisbane people ready to think different?
Interesting fact: The entire REX project cost $37 million in 1976 (over $220 million in today’s money).