AS THE government tries to squeeze another 700,000 dwellings into Sydney by 2050, one of the most obvious areas for redevelopment is looking increasingly like an urban wasteland.The Parramatta Road corridor between the city and Auburn is perfectly located, says urban planners, close to rail services with established neighbourhoods and shopping precincts set back from the main road.But its urban amenity is unattractive to developers, businesses and the public – except those hunting for cars in the estimated 200 yards along the 23-kilometre strip.The relentless roar of vehicles, the exhaust fumes, the way Parramatta Road has become a physical dividing line of Sydney makes it what the Monash University expert Graham Currie calls ”a classic traffic sewer”.”They are characterised by noise and huge volumes of traffic,” Professor Currie said. ”They are usually difficult to cross, places where parents fear to take their children. They are places where governments have made a deliberate decision that the traffic is more important than the people who live or work around [it].”The unlovely and unloved Parramatta Road corridor, which carries an estimated 80,000 vehicles a day, has been the subject of dozens of renewal or makeover proposals – all of which have gone nowhere.But now the Planning Institute of Australia and the Urban Development Institute of Australia are pushing the government to revive its 2001 Parramatta Road Project, which aimed to upgrade the corridor with better public transport, more housing and retailers.”That project has never been formally abandoned but it has been ignored,” the planning institute’s NSW president, Tony McNamara, said. ”It’s an important initiative that needs to be completed.”The planners will use their submission to the metropolitan transport blueprint to urge the government to invest in two proposals that are vital to making Parramatta Road more habitable: the M4 East tunnel that would continue the motorway underground from Strathfield to Lilyfield, and a light rail line down the centre of the road. Both projects would remove traffic from Parramatta Road, quieten it dramatically, and make it more of a boulevard than a truck route.”The government is insisting on more density for these suburbs but it is not feasible without better public transport.”The chief executive of the development institute, Stephen Albin, said the Roads and Traffic Authority’s decision to make much of Parramatta Road a clearway, especially in the inner west, was a disaster for local shopping and street life. ”There needs to be far less traffic, more parking and wider footpaths,” he said.”Parking acts as a filter between the traffic and pedestrians. If there was street parking, you wouldn’t have boarded-up shops, there would be pedestrians, you would have the active streets that people like to live on or close to.”Landscape architects McGregor Coxall – which, with architects Choi Ropiha, won a competition to design the Parramatta Road Project – is eager to revive the plan. Phil Coxall believes there is ”huge potential” for building between 130,000 and 150,000 medium- to high-density dwellings along Parramatta Road, without the resistance encountered in outer suburbs because almost no one likes the strip as it is.He believes the road could rival the main street in Hong Kong, with bustling footpaths, markets and a historic tram running down the centre of the road.A leading urban planner, Professor Ed Blakely, said Denver, Vancouver and San Francisco had transformed traffic-plagued arteries by introducing light rail and denser housing.
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