In recent weeks a Labor State MP, Don Brown (Capalaba) has publicly called on Brisbane City Council to upgrade Rickertt Road.
We live in a democracy, that's his right- and I certainly would never criticise someone for standing up for their constituents and advocating their genuine concerns.
However, Don has crossed the line from respectful and constructive policy advocacy into pushing outright lies and misinformation as facts.
You might think that anything which gets people (and pollies) talking about upgrading Rickertt Road is a good thing.
Well sure, if everyone is telling the truth and is up front- that's great. But where one side consistently tries to throw mud at another, it only serves to divide people and break consensus.
At the moment, this debate seems destined to play off Redlanders against Brisbanites in a battle over who should pay.
It doesn't need to be like that.
This article will serve to dispel some of the misinformation floating around about Rickertt Road and plot a decent way forward, whether you live in the Redlands or in Brisbane.
These issues are not simple to understand. In fact it's very difficult.
But I believe in laying bare all of the facts; all of the information and letting you make up your own mind about who's right and wrong.
I won't insult your intelligence with spin and innuendo, you can be the judge.
So what's the deal with Rickertt Road?
Two weeks ago, in the process of resurfacing Greencamp Road, Brisbane City Council (BCC) officers pulled up the traffic detector loops which set off the traffic lights, in order to rehabilitate the intersection of Greencamp and Rickertt.
This sent the traffic signal box into a failover mode, (kind of like how the lights operate at night) where it only let a few cars through at a time.
As a result the morning peak hour commute from the Redlands into Brisbane was thrown into chaos and commutes that would take between ten and thirty minutes (on average) were taking over an hour.
Both Brisbane and Redlands residents have every right to be angry at this fault.
However, it was corrected and the road operation is now normalized.
I freely admit that congestion on the road remains an ongoing issue, every day.
Enter Don Brown, the new Labor member for Capalaba.
Not wanting to let a good crisis go to waste, he swung into action and called on BCC to upgrade it's side of Rickertt Road in order to solve the traffic congestion.
He did the obligatory 'angry politician' photo with the local paper and started a petition on Change.org calling on the Lord Mayor and I to 'honour our commitments' to upgrade Rickertt Road.
Here's the start of his campaign.
And here he says we promised it again...
The truth is, no BCC Councillor or representative has ever promised to upgrade Rickertt Road.
What Don Brown is basing this on is actually Council's 2011 Priority Infrastructure Plan (PIP).
He found it by typing 'rickertt road upgrade' into Google. Feel free to do the same, this isn't a secret document. It's here.
The Priority Infrastructure Plan (PIP) is a long-term citywide plan that coordinates trunk infrastructure with land use planning.
The state government requires that Council maintain a Priority Infrastructure Plan.
The PIP is essentially a ‘shopping list’ of a list of trunk infrastructure that councils have on their books to deliver as funding becomes available.
In the case of Rickertt Road we have always stated that we would like to upgrade the road, but that state or federal funds will be required due to the cost.
Further, the date of 2016 detailed for this project in the PIP is "the earliest the project will be required" not a projected date of delivery.
It even says so at the bottom of the document!
You can't commit yourself to a project where the funding is contingent on other parties coming to the table.
So Don Brown either doesn't understand what a PIP is (and is genuinely out of his depth on this issue), or is deliberately attempting to mislead people into believing that a promise has been broken, when it hasn't.
So what is this $16M project anyway?
One of the problems with cherry picking a single project out of a planning document, is that you tend to miss the other ones.
Don has picked one $16M project out of Council's PIP when the reality is the road upgrade consists of over ten separate projects.
This is an excerpt from RCC's own long term infrastructure plan Priority projects for the Redlands: Redlands – to 2030 and beyond
So $16M will only pay for the duplication of the Tingalpa Creek Bridge.
It won't solve the traffic bottleneck, which is on Greencamp Road. Anyone who drives the road regularly should know that.
The irony of the solution Mr Brown has proposed in his petition is that it solves absolutely nothing and if anything would make traffic congestion worse at the intersection of Greencamp and Rickertt.
This is why I have been saying: Rickertt Road is not Council's first priority, the priority is Greencamp Road.
If it's not $16M, then what's the true cost?
Council conducted a feasibility study on the Rickertt-Greencamp Road Corridor Upgrade in 2009.
The study estimated the cost of the full corridor upgrade in reference to Council projects of similar size and scope.
Let's not forget, it will be difficult to upgrade Rickertt Road piecemeal, a large package of works will need to be delivered in sequence to avoid moving the bottleneck to another section of the road network.
The works package would include but is not limited to:
- Duplication of Greencamp Road
- Duplication of Rickertt Road
- Replacement and widening of three major creek culverts
- Signalisation of the intersection at Chelsea and Rickertt Rds
- Signalisation of the intersection at Greencamp and Tilley Rds
- Signalisation of the intersection at Molle and New Cleveland Rds
- Major intersection improvement at Rickertt and Greencamp Rds
- Construction (duplication) of a road bridge over Tingalpa Creek
- Bikeway and pedestrian facilities along the corridor
- Full and partial resumptions along the corridor
Council officers estimate this will cost $120 million.
By comparison the cost to Redland City Council for the upgrade on its side of Rickertt Road in 2009 was just $5.6 million. Source
RCC's upgrade was only made possible through a $4.4 million dollar contribution from the federal government Auslink Regional Roads program, giving a total cost of $10M.
To be clear:
- Redland City Council contribution: $5.6M
- Federal Government contribution: $4.4M
- Total project cost: $10M
BCC submitted its side of the road for upgrade funding under the same program but the bid was not successful.
This graphic gives you an idea of the cost difference between the two projects.
The cost for Brisbane to upgrade it's side of Rickertt Rd is 12 times that of the Redlands.
The reasons for this are many and varied. Geology, topology, the complexity of the works and resumption requirements are all factors.
So then who pays?
This is a project of regional significance and not a cost that one government can burden alone.
Redland City Council's own planning documents back this up, so this is not a case of 'shifting blame' or 'passing the buck'.
This project is beyond the reach of Council in the near term without funding contributions from other levels of government.
Trying to push the project back onto BCC alone is both unrealistic and nonconstructive.
What have I done?
I was elected in 2012. My commitment to roads on this stretch was to resurface Greencamp Road and that has been honoured.
I did say I would work my state and federal colleagues to gain funding for Rickertt and Greencamp Road upgrades and so for the past three years, before annual budgets are handed down I have asked both state and federal governments to fund this project.
Each year I am told the money simply isn't available.
On 31 January 2015 the state government changed, we now have a new Premier with a different approach to managing the state finances.
I am hoping that when I ask the new government for funding this year the answer will be different.
What has Don Brown done?
It's very interesting that of all the issues Mr Brown chose to prosecute in his first days as an MP, that he would choose this one.
He chose to ignore Old Cleveland Road congestion, (state controlled infrastructure) and the stalled Eastern Busway, (state controlled infrastructure) and the Cleveland rail line duplication (state controlled infrastructure) but focused on a BCC road outside his electorate.
Surely if this issue was so important to him, he would have campaigned on a promise to fix it, or to at least provide some funding?
Well, before the last state election the Redland City Council asked all candidates within the Redlands to respond to a series of questions about what kinds of infrastructure they would work to deliver over their term.
This is it:
Don Brown couldn't even be bothered to respond.
So I will treat his 'Road to Damascus' conversion on Rickertt Road as cynical party politics until proven otherwise.
I know throughout his time in politics, Mr Brown has consistently branded himself as a ‘fighter’.
But ‘fighting’ is not the only quality expected of political representatives.
The ability to negotiate with others, to seek compromises and to achieve outcomes for the community in spite of political or ideological differences are also sought after qualities in public life.
So if Mr Brown wants to help upgrade Rickertt Road then he needs to stop the lies, the innuendo and the politics.
I invite him to meet with me and we can discuss how the State might contribute.
It's time to stop fighting and do something positive.