Council set to slam road project

The City of Melbourne looks set to launch a withering critique of the West Gate Tunnel project, which will dump thousands more vehicles per day into the north and west of the CBD.

Speaking at a community session at the town hall on June 8, traffic co-ordinator Richard Smithers said the council had serious concerns about the impact of the project.

The government on May 29 released a 10,000-page environmental effects statement (EES) on the impact of the privately-initiated toll road proposal.  Submissions in response close on July 10.

The EES is predicting significant reductions of traffic in King and Spencer streets in 2031 if the project proceeds, with traffic being diverted via Docklands.  Apart from the western end of LaTrobe St (which is predicted to carry 1000 more vehicles per day), no other Hoddle Grid streets were included in the analysis.

Mr Smithers said the council was still formulating its response and was keen to be guided by community concerns.  But, he said, some initial thoughts were obvious.

He said the most worrying traffic effect would stem from the thousands of extra vehicles entering the city from the Dynon Rd bridge.

He said there would not be more vehicles in the peak period, because the route was already at capacity.  But, he said, any spare capacity that existed in adjoining streets would be taken up for 14 hours per day.

“Essentially, in both directions these roads will be in peak conditions for up to 14 hours a day,” he said.  “That’s a concern because council has spent a lot of time and energy changing how traffic moves through this area.”

He said this extra east-west traffic would also have a devastating effect on north-south tram routes because traffic signals at intersections would need to be changed in favour of the new traffic.

He said 13 north-south tram routes currently moved 13,000 passengers per hour and taking “green time” from them at intersections would create a ”significant problem” for the city.

Mr Smithers said the partial closure of Grattan St due to Metro Tunnel works would further exacerbate the problem.

The City of Melbourne’s transport strategy, he explained, was based around discouraging private motor vehicles in favour of public transport, cycling and pedestrians.

He said the city also had concerns about extra traffic in Docklands, where traffic will be diverted from Spencer and King streets.

An “extension” is proposed between Dynon Rd and Wurundjeri Way, which planners expect to carry up to 19,000 vehicles per day. Wurundjeri Way itself is to get an extra lane in each direction and is predicted to carry up to 16,000 extra vehicles per day by 2031 if the project proceeds.

Other matters worrying the council included: impacts on open space, Moonee Ponds Creek, E-Gate and other renewal areas, noise and amenity impacts, physical connections, visual impact and loss of trees.

Council officers are preparing a response on all these concerns, which will be made public when presented to the Future Melbourne Committee in July.

Councillors have previously been scathing about the project.  On May 17, 2016, they came close to opposing the project altogether, but agreed to wait until the more was known about it.

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