Doyle blunts West Gate Tunnel opposition

By Shane Scanlan

Melbourne councillors have savaged the proposed West Gate Tunnel project, despite the best efforts of the Lord Mayor to hose them down.

At the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) of July 4, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle cautioned councillors not to get too far ahead of themselves.

“I would say to councillors, that we actually don’t have a project yet.  We have a proposal before us. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves in that process. The State Government has indicated that it is prepared to listen,” Cr Doyle said.

“We enter this process in good faith.  We enter this process to argue logically and coherently for good city outcomes.”

If it goes ahead, the project will dump thousands of unwanted cars into West Melbourne, North Melbourne and Docklands.  It is contrary to both City of Melbourne and State Government transport policy.

The council’s own submission to the environment effects statement (EES) is scathing.

But Cr Doyle said: “We will await the government response to the inquiry and then we’ll reserve the right to have a whole of council view on the final project.”

Despite Cr Doyle’s caution, he and all other councillors unanimously endorsed the council’s response to the EES.

The council submission says the EES fails to appropriately assess the impact of the project on:

  • Transport capacity, connectivity and traffic management;
  • Built environment;
  • Health, amenity and environmental quality;
  • Social, business, land use, public safety and infrastructure;
  • Landscape, visual and recreational values;
  • Hydrology and water quality;
  • Biodiversity; and
  • Environmental management framework.

It says: “The majority (between 54 and 65 per cent) of city-bound morning peak vehicles using the Footscray Rd elevated section of the project would access the central city, some 2900 to 3500 vehicles per hour. This brings unsustainable traffic volumes to the economic heart of the state.”

“The increased congestion for east/west trips has the potential to add to travel times and negate the short-term and minor travel time benefits stated by the project.”

“The project’s justification relies in part on the Eddington Report, which proposed a new freeway linking Melbourne’s east and west. However, the Eddington Report specifically recommended against such a road having exits (or entry ramps) to the central city. It was conceived as a city bypass, not a city access road, like the project.”

“The project does nothing to bring jobs closer to residents of Melbourne’s west but will instead further embed sprawl and expensive car dependency.”

“The project is trying to address amenity problems in Melbourne’s inner west. The proposed solution is leading to amenity problems in other areas of Melbourne, including to the north of the Hoddle Grid. The EES fails to adequately consider this.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood said at the July 4 FMC meeting: “We’re looking at a project that will deliver one of the largest spaghetti junctions in the world on what is prime developable land, so the opportunity cost is quite significant. And, when you look at the project itself, it seems to be quite confused.”

“If we’re planning 8 million people by 2051, really the only direction we can take in terms of commuters is mass transit and we really need to have a rethink about how we’re dealing with freight in our city.”

Cr Rohan Leppert said: “The more we learn about it, the more its very serious consequences are understood. The creation of congestion in West Melbourne and North Melbourne in particular, when this is supposed to be a ‘congestion busting’ proposal, is incredibly worrying.”

Cr Cathy Oke said: “This project really does break my heart.  I grew up in North Melbourne. I live in Kensington. I’m very proud of what the City of Melbourne has been doing in respect to transport policy and urban renewal.”

“To see a project like this which will come in and ruin so much of our great work – and people before us and all of the people we work with in our community – really breaks my heart.”

“I go along Footscray Rd a lot. I see Docklands a lot. And I see North Melbourne a lot.  And to see a vision of that covered in transport, covered in traffic, to see elevated spaghetti junctions ruining the vista and the opportunity for urban renewal is just devastating.”

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