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McGowan would halt waterfront work
Work halt: Mark McGowan would halt the bulldozers. Picture: Ben Crabtree/ The West Australian

A Labor government would immediately halt bulldozers on the Perth waterfront and renegotiate site-work contracts in a bid to keep Riverside Drive open, Mark McGowan said yesterday.

Launching his most strident attack on Elizabeth Quay, the Labor leader said he was “disgusted” by it and promised to direct any savings from scaling down the project to subsidising hospital parking.

But architects and urban planners, including the plan’s original designer, cast doubt on the feasibility of keeping the existing Riverside Drive alignment, saying this would be more expensive, not cheaper.

In his second assault on Colin Barnett’s legacy in as many weeks after promising to end the Premier’s dream of a Burswood stadium, Mr McGowan said he wanted to “save some money and stop this city grinding to a halt”.

“It’s traffic chaos in our city now and if we can renegotiate that and we can save a significant amount of money, I’d put that straight on to parking at hospitals,” he said, referring to the hospitals parking row.

Riverside Drive is due to shut for the $440 million project in November, but the closure of William Street between the Esplanade and Riverside Drive has caused traffic jams.

Mr McGowan made his announcement during a visit to a Nollamara senior citizens’ club where he took part in a tai chi class. He said incoming governments had renegotiated contracts “from time immemorial”.

He also rejected suggestions he was sending a vague message to the electorate because he could not nominate a savings target.

Architects Richard Weller and Geoffrey London said elevating Riverside Drive to allow water into the inlet would be expensive.

Professor Weller designed the previous Labor government’s waterfront proposal and helped rework it for the Barnett Government.

He said both parties delayed the project by “playing politics” and traffic would flow well around the project as designed.

“If people in Perth prefer driving cars to walking around well-designed civic space, then that’s really their problem,” Professor Weller said.

Urban planner Sean Morrison said: “Maintaining a four-lane highway straight through the guts of the pedestrian precinct doesn’t match up with the purpose of the project, to reconnect the river and the city.”

Mr Barnett has not ruled out a future tunnel but said it would cost $400 million. He said altering contracts would come “at a huge cost”.

Mr McGowan was in Nollamara to unveil Labor pledges to seniors — a new photo identity card, boosts to fuel concessions and security rebates.