Radical Concept Proposal for Riverside Greenway

Riverside Greenway
Artist's impression of Riverside Greenway

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.

Riverside Greenway

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.”

Similar to New York’s successful Highline project, the Greenway would be Brisbane’s version of an elevated riverside park as well as facilitating a new cycleway and catering for busway infrastructure including planned bi-articulated buses.
Diagram of Greenway concept proposal

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.

“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
Diagram of Greenway concept proposal

Riverside Greenway Development

Artist’s impression of ‘The Hub’.

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.

Diagram of ‘The Hub’

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.”

Cost Summary

The concept plan allocates the following dollar amounts to various infrastructure and public enhancement projects:

Diagram of funding sources

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.

A website has been set up about the Riverside Greenway which can be visited at www.riversidegreenway.com.


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).

Photograph’s of the REX in 1976. Source: www.blogs.slq.qld.gov.au


  1. Hail ! A Fantastic Vision !

    ‘No-brainer’ to take the by-pass traffic off the REX … the total lack of alternative river crossings is the major issue and has been recognized for many years. It has long been mooted to demolish the REX in favor of public realm at river level.

  2. This is an excellent idea, and as Brendan says, has successful predecessors in other cities around the world.

    I would suggest demolishing the Riverside Expressway altogether, but retaining the Captain Cook bridge for traffic. This would give direct access to the river and halve the length of tunnel needed to connect the South East Freeway to the Go Between bridge.

    In combination with making city streets two-way and completely revising the bus network to facilitate anywhere-to-anywhere journeys and drastically reduce the need for bus termini in the city, this scheme would really boost Brisbane as a “new world city”.

    • Where do you see the tens of thousands of motorists using the Riverside Expressway travelling instead?

      I’m all for improving the riverfront, but saying to demolish it is just as obnoxious as it was to build it in the first place.

  3. Looks very cool.

    II wonder whether you’d have enough earth to plant decent trees along here. though? And would it stand the weight?

    Would it be better to tear either the inbound or outbound route down and use just one?

  4. I’m not convinced how this would solve the traffic issue? All I see happening is more congestion of vehicles trying to enter the city. To say that you want to have a city with the lowest traffic imprint is a bit nonsensical.
    The riverside expressway may look ugly but it provides a link into the city. Directing traffic through the go between bridge and the story bridge will cause chaos. I’m not convinced about this proposal. Our PT network is not strong enough and the attitude for people will always remain to have personal vehicle preference.

    • One thing we found out when we had to close the REX a few years ago was that a lot of the traffic simply disappeared. People found other ways to get to the city, or didn’t take the trip. So that’s one aspect.
      The other is that with this proposal (and Cross River Rail), we would be significantly improving our PT service.

      I agree that it is a bit ambitious, but so was San Francisco, Seoul, Madrid and other cities when they closed major roads.

    • In terms of traffic I think it’s more about solving the Busway (or future light rail) bottleneck in a much smarter / more efficient way that could allow alot of future capacity. BCC have moved from a light rail metro to a bendy bus metro because of all tight the twists and turns between Wooloongabba and the city via the current South Bank route. This straightens the problem out…

  5. @KP what if they don’t have a choice. The fact is, we need a solution to a very serious future problem. We need to be brave in our ideas and decision makers need to be courageous. We have endless research to show Humans need to be connected to the natural world, its in our DNA, yet we make the same mistakes over and over again when it comes to planning cities. We put band aid fixes for the short term. This proposal may not be perfect, but its the kind of thinking and courage we need to create clever, functional cities which promote well-being and safety for generations to come.

  6. Interesting ideas – however he said it himself, the REx is “crumbling” so the better option would be to remove altogether rather than building on top of it..
    It may be more achievable to go straight underground at the QUT landing point of the captain cook bridge and come up again near Herschel St to remove REx from northbank althogether

  7. A very similar project has just been completed in the Dutch city Maastricht, where a motorway which ran right though the city has been taken underground, and the surface has been turned into park lands and cycling and pedestrian zones. Unfortunately all info seems in Dutch, but to get an idea just google “Avenue 2 Maastricht” and you get the picture. The project has been completed and has been opened to traffic a couple of weeks ago

  8. More bridges needed, more roads needed, more express way needed to solve the congestion problem. Brisbane only got 2 million people much less than Shanghai and Beijing, but the congestion problem is as big as those big cities.

  9. There are some good intentions here but the whole REX should be removed, this is old infrastructure that would be to expensive to maintain over time and simply an eyesore even after converted into a green corridor. Also, the waterfront edge of that part of the city is prime land, once the casino project is finished this would become even more obvious. The waterfront should be treated like southbank but with better connectivity with the river.
    A lighter version of this green corridor makes sense though and a green pedestrian link should be offered in that location. Brisbane is in desperate need of more cross-river pedestrian bridges from St Lucia to Hamilton. The Gabba hub area is also vital to extend the CBD zone to the other side of the river and increase connectivity with the Southern suburbs. Brisbane has so much potential and yet there isn’t much long term vision for this city to make it world renowned.

  10. Best demolish the REX. It will have the effect of making the river seem wider and will open up the heritage buildings to the river. That being said, the REX is probably the best piece of transport infrastructure in Brisbane, so it wont be going anywhere anytime soon.

  11. The fundamental premise that the Riverside Expressway is “Brisbane’s biggest eyesore” is a serious over-reach and is certainly open to debate. Since its construction I have viewed it as a functional and attractive feeder system into our downtown; especially when viewed from Southbank or above. It is a clever use of riparian space that forms an undulating ribbon that frames the border of the river and the city. Apart from the essential function for traffic into the foreseeable future I am unconvinced of the value of this re-purposing of such a key piece of Brisbane infrastructure. That said, pushing for change should be encouraged since new and exciting ideas may result. I simply do not see that the REX is an “eyesore” nor that we can afford to remove it.

  12. I am confused as to what is being proposed. so we wouldn’t remove it, but simply beautify it and re-purpose it, and we would build another structure (a tunnel) to circumvent traffic? if it is an eye sore, why not just beautify it and let it continue serving its current purpose. I don’t think the proposal solves any traffic problems nor in my mind does it look to beautify the structure.

  13. I think this is brilliant and a must. The riverside expressway is an eyesore, this plan also completes a smarter Transappex plan. Formerly a Sydneysider I know the pain of poor planning and action, let’s act on this sort of thinking. Would be great to see the North/South transport corridor used and a tunnel linking the Go Between bridge to the corridor. This would be a rare feat in this day and age to have the national highway go straight through the city allowing excellent access North & South.

  14. A great idea, but if Brisbane truelly wants to be a world city it need to invest in a mass transport metro system. All the above mentioned “world cities” already have one. Combine the underground road tunnel with a underground metro.

  15. Preserving and Recovering the waterfront should the planning target for strategic planners, though I would go further than this and remove the whole viaduct if given the opportunity.

    The shortfalls of the proposal:

    The surge toll pricing would work against the principle of incentivising the use of Clem7 during the peak.

    The costs estimation of $1b for the tunnel is incredibly understated. Noting the tunnel length, a cut and cover tunnel through dense urban environ, and finding and acquiring a suitable northern portal location (feeding both Hale St and Coronation Dr) would suggest the costs >$5b

  16. Great Vision. Where is the political leadership in Queensland to make this happen. The time to do this work is now with low interest rates on capital at less than 0.5% it would be a easy to pay back. No tolls or reasonable tolls a 100000/day at $5 / car for a 5Bn to be paid off over 50yrs, I love the Uber-like surge pricing for tolls (more expensive during peak), should be applied to all toll ways.


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