AN attempt by four mayors to have federal funds promised for the proposed Perth Freight Link (PFL) redirected has been slammed by the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTA).
LRTA president and head of Marley's Transport, Stephen Marley, described a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, co-signed by mayors of the Cities of Fremantle, Cockburn and Kwinana and the Town of East Fremantle, as a "political stunt".
"Basically the need for better road links connecting the suburbs south of Fremantle to the (Kwinana) freeway for the next 50 years has been hijacked by the councils' self interest about where the port is going to be," Mr Marley said on Monday.
"The Livestock and Rural Transport Association is 100 per cent behind the Roe 8 (the controversial proposed Roe Highway extension part of the PFL which gained conditional federal environmental approval last week to cross the Beeliar Wetlands to connect with Stock Road).
"What's been forgotten is that Roe 8 is needed not just for freight movement, but so people living in the suburbs like Hamilton Hill, Hilton, Beaconsfield, White Gum Valley, O'Connor, Samson, Spearwood, Coogee and Coolbellup - and I'm one of them - can get to work in the mornings," he said.
"You only have to look at the amount of traffic, and the congestion and delays, on South Street or Beeliar Drive, to recognise the need for it.
"Those residents have been deserted by their councils' self interest - two want the (Fremantle) port to move out so they benefit from the land which becomes available and can turn it into another caf((xE9))é strip.
"The other two want the port to move to their area so they can benefit from some of the money it brings in.
"There's also the politics of it, Labor is getting a caning in the polls at the moment and this (debate on the port location and some opposition to Roe 8) gives them a little hot spot they can niggle away at the government on.
"As far as we (LRTA) are concerned, we want to see it (Roe 8) built as soon as possible.
"We (truck drivers and transport operators) don't care whether we turn left to Kwinana or turn right to Fremantle at the end of it," he said.
Mr Marley said the trucks-only tolls aspect of the PFL, which has previously drawn his ire, was a separate issue to the need for the link which proposes to bypass 14 sets of traffic lights connecting Fremantle with key industrial areas in the eastern suburbs.
After attending a recent meeting on the PFL he said he expected to see less focus in future on the freight aspect of the $1.6 billion project and more on the expected benefits to general traffic movement.
Last month mayors Brad Pettitt, James O'Neill, Logan Howlett and Carol Adams from Fremantle, East Fremantle, Cockburn and Kwinana councils wrote to Mr Turnbull urging him to stop the $925 million committed to the PFL.
They urged Mr Turnbull to "redirect" the federal funds to developing the Kwinana outer harbour as Perth's major port infrastructure.
"We are extremely concerned that this major infrastructure investment (in the PFL) doesn't offer good value for money or good, long-term orderly planning outcomes for Western Australia," the mayors wrote.
"Instead the signatories to this letter, who represent collectively over 150,000 residents, are strongly of the view that a far better infrastructure investment would be the immediate planning and construction of an outer harbour in Kwinana along with associated road and rail infrastructure."
The letter claimed the option of developing "a world-class intermodal facility" on the 6000 hectares available at Kwinana would create up to 35,000 permanent jobs benefitting surrounding high-unemployment areas.
Upgrade of Rowley and Anketell Roads connecting to Tonkin Highway as port access routes were supported by their councils, the mayors said, as well as a duplicated rail line serving the port.
"There is a need for all parties to step back from the PFL project and assess alternate options to fully address the future freight task in the Perth metropolitan area," they said.
Later on radio, Mayor Pettitt said there was "no point pouring billions of dollars into a road project leading to a port that needed to be moved in the near future".
In granting environmental approval for the Roe 8 extension last week Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt stipulated 16 conditions aimed at protecting threatened and migratory species in the wetlands.
These include endangered Carnaby's black cockatoos and southern brown bandicoot.
Ultimately, the PFL is intended to link with the Gateway WA and NorthLink WA projects to form an 85-kilometre non-stop route from Muchea to Fremantle and the southern industrial areas.