New 20-lane mega free­way

Big Rigs - - NEWS - Ro­han Smith

TWENTY lanes. Two. Zero. It’s enough to give the most Zen driv­ers anx­i­ety and it hasn’t even been built.

Pic­tures of Mel­bourne’s free­way of the fu­ture, dubbed “the miss­ing road link” by the Vic­to­rian Govern­ment, have been re­vealed.

The Daniel An­drews-led La­bor Govern­ment re­leased the first images of the pro­posed North East Link on Sun­day. The link would con­nect Mel­bourne’s free­way net­work and in­clude a ma­jor up­grade to the Eastern Free­way – one that would see the road swell to 20 lanes and make it one of the world’s widest roads.

The govern­ment la­belled the pro­ject “the sin­gle big­gest road in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ment in Victoria’s his­tory”.

It’s a theme that fol­lows the elec­tion prom­ise a fort­night ear­lier to de­liver the Sub­ur­ban Rail Loop, billed as “the big­gest pro­ject in state his­tory”, even if it won’t be com­pleted un­til 2050.

The pro­ject would cost tax­pay­ers $15.8 bil­lion, adding to an astro­nom­i­cal in­fras­truc­ture spend.

“It is a big pro­ject and it adds to an al­ready enor­mous in­fras­truc­ture agenda,” the Premier said.

“Some­thing like 130,000 ve­hi­cles will use the North East Link ev­ery day, that’s not only go­ing to make it one of our big­gest road projects but one of our busiest roads.”

It would in­clude a tunnel sec­tion of more than five kilo­me­tres and a se­ries of green bridges – “park­land that par­tially cov­ers the open sec­tion of the road”, the Premier said.

“This is about giv­ing lo­cal roads back to lo­cal res­i­dents … it’s ex­actly what our state needs.”

He said con­struc­tion would be­gin in 2020 to be fin­ished by 2027.

But the pro­ject has been met with some con­cern.

Man­ning­ham coun­cil­lor Dot Haynes told Fair­fax Me­dia she was com­pletely against ex­pand­ing the ex­ist­ing busy road net­work by eight lanes.

“It’s ab­so­lutely dis­gust­ing. This is go­ing to be dev­as­tat­ing, ab­so­lutely dev­as­tat­ing, you will not be able to build a wall high enough to stop that level of noise reach­ing houses.”

So­cial me­dia users piled on, too. One user wrote: “I’m al­most ashamed to live in a state that’s do­ing this.”

An­other wrote: “Why add more lanes? All free­ways should have 3-4 lanes max­i­mum, per­haps 5-6 at ma­jor in­ter­changes.”

Ur­ban planner James Scantle­bury wrote that green space and com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties were giv­ing way, to be “re­placed by traf­fic noise and pol­lu­tion”.

The pro­ject will start at the Ring Road at Greens­bor­ough, 19km north­east of the Mel­bourne CBD. It will con­nect the Ring Road to the Eastern Free­way through Bulleen.

The widest sec­tion, at Don­caster Road, will re­quire a “massive over­haul”, ac­cord­ing to the Vic­to­rian Govern­ment.

The pro­ject means a num­ber of homes will be com­pul­so­rily ac­quired but the Premier said the ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of 10,000 new jobs, far out­weighed any draw­backs.

Mr An­drews shook up the race ahead of Novem­ber’s elec­tion in Au­gust with the al­lo­ca­tion of $50 bil­lion to­wards a massive un­der­ground rail net­work link­ing Victoria’s rail lines and pro­vid­ing an al­ter­na­tive route to the air­port.

It would in­clude 90km of new track­work, 12 new sta­tions and would rev­o­lu­tionise the pub­lic trans­port sys­tem by tak­ing away the need for travel from sub­ur­ban cen­tres through the city be­fore con­nect­ing to other lines.

But it wouldn’t be com­plete un­til 2050 at the ear­li­est and the state’s op­po­si­tion said the bud­get could blow out to more than $100 bil­lion.

“We’ve spent the last 12 months … do­ing the hard work to de­ter­mine whether this pro­ject makes sense,” he said.

“Does it ac­tu­ally stack up? The an­swer is yes, it does.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

MEGA HIGH­WAY DE­SIGN: New de­signs for the North East Link have been re­leased.

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