Thursday, November 17, 2011

Libs ramp up priority for freeway - TheAge

Based on the last post, I could see this coming. A bit more today, in The Age.

A CONTROVERSIAL freeway through inner Melbourne and a new underground rail line have again topped the state's wish list for funding from Canberra, with the Baillieu government saying it wants to proceed with a series of major transport projects first proposed by Labor.

The government today will unveil its submission to the federal government's advisory body Infrastructure Australia. It marks the first release of the Coalition's transport proposals since coming to office last November.

However, the submission does not say when any of the projects detailed would be built, or what they would ultimately cost. Premier Ted Baillieu said yesterday he did not want to make these predictions until more planning had been done.

The government has backed an 18-kilometre ''inner urban freeway'' that would link the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill to the Western Ring Road in Sunshine. The freeway would travel via CityLink and the Port of Melbourne. It is based on a plan put forward by Sir Rod Eddington in 2008 in a report for the Brumby government. Sir Rod is now chairman of Infrastructure Australia.

This freeway plan was partially adopted by Mr Brumby's government later in 2008, when it announced plans for WestLink, a $2.5 billion tunnel linking the inner west to the port.

Public transport advocates attacked the road tunnel plan, which has been in limbo since Labor's defeat last year, saying it would only add to road congestion.

Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt vowed to fight ''tooth and nail'' to stop the freeway gaining money from Canberra. State Labor MP Richard Wynne - whose electorate the freeway would slice through - also attacked the idea. ''When Eddington first looked at this freeway, it was neither economically or environmentally sustainable. It's the same today,'' he said.

But the government's submission to Canberra argues booming traffic on the West Gate Bridge and Hoddle Street means the project is now justified. It has requested $30 million to fund a two-year planning study. ''This is a once-in-a-generation project that would transform the way people move around Melbourne,'' Mr Baillieu said.

The government's submission says the private sector may help fund construction of the freeway, raising the possibility it may be a toll road.

The submission also puts a new rail tunnel under inner Melbourne back on the agenda. Labor's 2008 blueprint detailed a plan for a 17-kilometre track from Footscray to Caulfield via Parkville, with its first stage to cost $4.5 billion. Its future was put in doubt after the election but the Baillieu government is now seeking a further $130 million for pre-construction work. While the new proposal follows much the same route as Labor's plan, it will stretch only nine kilometres...

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Note that there's little detail about the route, and therefore what could be at risk. The previous government had categorically said that JJ Holland Park was safe. With the prospect of the car tunnel on the agenda, I suppose it depends upon its route and how they intend to create it.

Even the more recent plans for the rail tunnel showed that the park would be safe.

For both of these, however, there's the potential disruptions to the surrounding areas during construction to think about. With the train tunnel, I'd personally view that as a short-term pain, for long-term gain. With the car tunnel, as with other roads built to 'save' the city from traffic, I believe it will fill up with traffic, just like the others, and make any arterial which its exit ramps spill onto, even worse. The 'booming traffic on the Westgate and Hoddle Street' is the product of the Monash Freeway works, and EastLink, respectively. The tunnel would certainly help through-traffic, but usage patterns show the vast majority of users would be getting on/off at some point near the city. And most of them are commuters. And many of them are driving because of the poor/non-existant public transport options.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some things never change. Rod Eddington (11/11) is still spruiking the east-west road tunnel, even though his own report in 2008 said it would return just 45 cents in benefits for every dollar spent on it.

We can now see in 2011 that the assumptions underlying the East West report were flawed. Metlink reports that public transport use grew to 1.4 million trips a day in 2010: a level Eddington said would not be reached until 2031. Meanwhile, Federal Government figures show that overall car travel in Melbourne has not increased since 2004. Additional car trips in the outer suburbs have been offset by fewer trips in the inner suburbs where Sir Rod wants to put his tunnel.

These trends are ones we should encourage if we want our city to suffer less congestion and pollution into the future. Building a big tunnel to encourage more road traffic is an idea that belongs in 1960.