Western Distributor: a disaster for the inner city

My vision for a liveable Melbourne is for a clean city with a great sense of community, less traffic and more space for the things we love: parks, the arts, great cafes and community spaces, bikes, public transport and pedestrians.

The Andrews Labor Government seems hell bent of steaming ahead with a new freeway that will bring thousands more cars into the inner city, in complete contrast to everything we are trying to create. Labor in Victoria have recently committed themselves to Transurban’s unsolicited proposal for the $5.5 billion Western Distributor Project.  The project includes building a tunnel and an elevated motorway connecting the West Gate Freeway with the Port of Melbourne, CityLink and the CBD, as well as widening the Monash Freeway and access points to Webb Dock.  

The City of Melbourne released a report that found that the new toll road is:

  • Likely to substantially increase traffic into North Melbourne, West Melbourne, Carlton and Parkville;

  • Could deliver up to 15,000 new cars in these suburbs per day;

  • Includes three off-ramps and three on-ramps over the Moonee Ponds Creek connecting to Dynon Road, Footscray Rd and through the proposed E-gate development to Wurundjeri Way.

Even though the project is one of the largest road building projects in the state with the potential to bring thousands more cars into the inner city at peak times, the Government has provided little information to inner city residents about the impacts of the Western Distributor Project and there have only been a few, low-profile community consultations held in the area.

I recently held a community forum in North Melbourne about this project and many residents were deeply concerned about:

  • The extra traffic on our streets;

  • Ruining the E-Gate area, which was supposed to be a great new suburb but will now have a freeway running through the middle of it;

  • The demand this will create for more carparks in the inner city;

  • The loss of hundreds of trees on Footscray Road;

  • The depreciation of land and property values, and

  • The fact that no study was done to determine whether public transport could be a better option for spending this money.The government has released it’s business case for the project, many parts of it were blacked out or deleted, so the detailed traffic impact modelling and the true financial cost of the project on the community have been hidden. 

No modern, global city is trying to bring more cars into its CBD.  We should be investing even more in public transport, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and ways to get trucks off streets in the west - not new freeways that bring cars into the city.  The new Melbourne Metro will be able to carry 8000 people per hour into the city, compared to less than 2000 per hour on the Western Distributor. Land and property values around public transport infrastructure actually increase as opposed to depreciating when next to or near great big freeways.

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