Hoardings Hide a Hive of Activity
The signage on the construction site hoardings along Hibberson Street in Gungahlin give a strong hint to what's happening on the other side, as does the sound of heavy machinery. But it's not until you step through the gate near Hinder Street at the eastern end of the main street that the extent of the activity becomes clear.
Work is proceeding at considerable pace inside the hoardings preparing the way for construction of the Gungahlin Terminus for the first stage of the Canberra's Light Rail.
Hibberson Street is being transformed from a busy two-way shopping strip into a car-free light rail precinct. But that transformation requires a lot of planning, coordination, and problem-solving, as Project Engineer, Sophie Thompson, has discovered.
"The first thing was to establish what services run through the area, and where they run," she explained. "Even though Gungahlin is relatively new in terms of Canberra suburbs it wasn't as easy as just contacting the service providers – gas, water, power, communications, whatever – and getting a look at their maps.
"Maps are good, but nothing beats a pair of eyes! Our crews have been able to identify where pipes might be simply by taking a good look at the bare ground. We also undertook a lot of detailed survey work. Even then, there have been a couple of occasions when we've been approached by tradesmen who worked on the original developments and they told us where to look."
The main work at the moment involves the removal of water and stormwater pipes away from the centre of the road to allow the light rail easement to be built. Some of that work means new pipes being put into trenches dug up to six metres below ground. Communication cabling also has to be re-located.
"The job involves a lot of problem-solving as we go along," said Sophie. "But that makes the job interesting. Sometimes there are surprises – like when we opened up what looked like a normal manhole cover near the Gozzard Street intersection and found a six-metre deep trench!"
The hoardings went up in June and will remain until December when they will be replaced with a lighter security fence. It has meant considerable disruption for traders along the busy street, but Community Engagement Officer Sally Coyle, says the locals have in the main embraced the process with good nature.
"The work has meant we've had to take almost the full width of the street and obviously restrict pedestrian access," she said. "Bus routes have had to change and everyone has had to get used to the disruption.
"But the traders have been very responsive to our approaches. In fact, the reason we have such bright and detailed signage is a suggestion from the traders. We go to great lengths to keep them informed about the work and what they can expect.
"I think everyone is looking forward to the new streetscape when the hoardings come down. Then the excitement will begin as we start to see the community interaction with the new space." she said.