The construction of a new north-south road parallel to the M1 Pacific Motorway called the Coomera Connector is currently being planned between Loganholme and Nerang.
The recent announcement by the Queensland Premier progressing the business case for the southern section of the Coomera Connector has created a lot of interest in the media.
This article is part of a case study for an upcoming transport planning course being developed to outline the context and planning processes involved in developing new major transport infrastructure.
The M1 Pacific Motorway from Brisbane to the Gold Coast is experiencing increasing safety, congestion and reliability challenges, resulting from the growth in residential and economic development along the corridor, together with interstate and regional passenger and freight travel demand.
Any new transport planning exercise should start with establishing the context – using both a bottom-up approach, analysing the current challenges and opportunities and a top-down approach, determining the desired outcomes and service requirements.
It is important to avoid problem-solution thinking or jumping to a solution without understanding the context or cost-effectiveness.
The Brisbane to Gold Coast corridor consists of a single motorway – the M1. The major challenges being faced now and into the future, include:
- currently there are prolonged periods of congestion on the M1 where travel demand exceeds capacity for extended periods. Forecast future traffic anticipates this will get much worse, as there is limited capacity remaining on the M1, resulting in ongoing and worsening travel time delays
- congestion is a major cause of crashes and incidents on the M1, which result in unreliable travel and unexpected delays, unpredictable delivery times and further safety risks for road users and emergency services
- freight and inter-regional travel on this key national freight route is being compromised by congestion and incidents
- there is a lack of alternative routes for local and intra-regional trips along this corridor, constrained by limited river crossings, resulting in local traffic being channelled onto the M1, causing congestion at interchanges and queuing on the motorway
- the lack of alternative routes to be able to divert traffic during major incidents means traffic can be trapped on the M1 for extended periods
- along with poor connectivity for local traffic, there is a constrained public transport mode share along the corridor, relying on the heavy rail services as the primary commuter service to Brisbane, but limited, if any, public transport services to other activity centres
- the northern Gold Coast area is a fast-growing area, for both commercial and residential developments and needs to be serviced with additional transport infrastructure and services.
All of these challenges result in regional economic and productivity impacts, including constrained employment growth, business investment and housing demand for an area designated for future development.
There are two levels of desired outcomes to consider here – the published strategy and plans and the specific service requirements for the corridor.
For example, published strategy and plans can be found in the 30-year vision detailed in the Queensland Transport Strategy (draft), the 10-year outlook provided by the Transport Coordination Plan and a regional focus outlined in the South East Queensland Regional Transport Plans (draft). In addition, there are local government transport strategies, such as the Gold Coast City Transport Strategy 2031 and national strategies such as the Australian Infrastructure Plan.
Distilling these strategies and plans to the Brisbane to Gold Coast corridor provides a more specific set of desirable outcomes or service requirements:
- reduce crashes and incidents, hence improve safety and travel time reliability
- improve transport network resilience by providing alternative routes and additional river crossings
- protect the national route (M1) for freight and inter-regional travel
- improve accessibility for local traffic, for access to Gold Coast and Logan activity centres
- improve access to rail stations on the Gold Coast line as a priority mode for commuters to Brisbane
- support development of economic and residential centres along the corridor
- enhance economic development for key activity centres by improving accessibility to airports for business, freight and tourism.
In the next article (coming soon), we will look at the next steps in the planning process after analysing and determining the context of major transport infrastructure upgrades, which is to develop a wide range of potential options, both infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions.