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Planning Minister Rob Stokes says the NSW government and councils need to act quickly to revitalise Parramatta Road over the next few years as completion of the WestConnex motorway opens a rare opportunity for change with traffic congestion to ease along the maligned strip.
His comments come as a report by the Committee for Sydney urges the government to build a light rail line or operate trackless trams along a stretch of Parramatta Road from Burwood to the city, while cutting speed limits and closing connecting streets to create plazas.
Traffic snarls on Parramatta Road. CREDIT:BEN RUSHTON
In a sign of the sad state of Parramatta Road, the report estimates more than two-thirds of shops along the 23-kilometre corridor were vacant even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Stokes said the report was timely because it put a focus on the "urgency with which we need to take the opportunity" to restore the urban environment.
"One of the things I've learnt about Parramatta Road is it's a scar through the heart of western Sydney – we have an opportunity to heal it," he said.
Mr Stokes said a reduction in traffic volumes on Parramatta Road as a result of WestConnex – due for completion in 2023 – would open a window of opportunity for restoration.
"The problem, of course, with any new motorway is the problem of induced demand. Building more roads to relieve traffic is like buying bigger trousers to lose weight," he said.
An artist's impression of a light rail line down the middle of Parramatta Road.CREDIT:COMMITTEE FOR SYDNEY
"The longer we leave it, the more chance that those lanes [freed up on Parramatta Road] will just get used up with more local traffic. Now is the time to roll out the plans."
One of the justifications for WestConnex was that it would remove traffic from Parramatta Road, helping to turn it into a liveable artery comparable with those in Barcelona and Paris.
The Committee for Sydney report recommends a separated cycleway either along Parramatta Road or nearby, and the revitalisation of town centres to encourage people to return.
Mr Stokes disagreed with one of its recommendations for a review of the urban transformation strategy for the road corridor. "We don't need to review it – we need to do it. It was planned exhaustively with the community, with the councils, and I have been very frustrated with the pace with which it is being implemented," he said.
He laid part of the blame on delays to traffic studies on Parramatta Road by Transport for NSW, which had slowed council moves to deliver on planning outcomes agreed in a 2016 strategy.
"It is the traffic studies that have been delaying everything," he said. "There hasn't been that sense of urgency in Transport for NSW to get those traffic studies done."
Mr Stokes expects the traffic studies, which related to different projects, to be concluded in the new year, allowing the strategy for the urban revitalisation to be implemented.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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