By Sue Dunn
ADELAIDE — The SA government announced on March 21 that it would begin the construction in December of the Southern Expressway, a 21-kilometre freeway from Darlington to Old Noarlunga south of here. Local residents report that survey work and the demolition of houses along the route have begun. The expressway is predicted (at this stage) to cost South Australians $112 million.
The Brown government still believes that freeway construction is the solution to urban transportation problems. This runs contrary to the experience of other countries, where it is now being realised that major road building ultimately leads to further traffic congestion, increased air and noise pollution, urban run-off, greenhouse gas emissions, greater energy consumption, road accidents, social alienation and inequality and loss of land.
While the Brown government is able to find $112 million of public money to construct the Southern Expressway and has accepted a further $135 million of federal government funds to be construct a freeway and tunnel through the Adelaide Hills, it is telling the community that it is unable to provide the much-needed funds for public transport and other essential services such as health and education, which are all facing cutbacks.
Not content with wasting $112 million, the government is spending more on a propaganda campaign to convince the community that the expressway will provide employment for people who live south of here and that it will cut travel time by 10 minutes for those travelling by car to and from the city.
Transport minister Diana Laidlaw has lamented a recent report that patronage of Adelaide's public transport system is declining. She refuses to accept that reductions in the level of service, such as the recent closure of three stations on the suburban hills Belair train line, and infrequent bus and train services in general are major contributing reasons for the falling patronage.
The Southern Transport Community Coalition has formed to oppose the construction of the Southern Expressway and to campaign for alternative solutions to the transport problems that are less damaging environmentally, socially and economically.
Members of the Southern Transport Community Coalition — which comprises organisations, groups and individuals, some of whom have been working in opposition to the freeway proposal for several years — believe that the $112 million earmarked for the expressway would be better spent on a public transport alternative, such as a light rail system along the route reserved for the freeway, and on increasing local public transport services in the southern suburbs.
A rally has been organised for Sunday, July 30, at 2pm at Laffer Drive, Laffer's Triangle (corner of Sturt and South Roads) to oppose the construction of the expressway. Laffer's Triangle is a revegetation site and an Aboriginal heritage area of significance to the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. It is under threat as the location for the beginning of the expressway.
[Sue Dunn is an activist with the Southern Transport Community Coalition. For more information contact 267 3675 or 377 3049.]