Elizabeth St upgrades put on hold again

By David Schout

Much-needed upgrades to the southern end of Elizabeth St likely won’t begin until 2021, almost four years later than first planned.

Once described by former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle as “grotty” and the “ugly duck- ling” of Melbourne, upgrades on the stretch of road between Flinders St and Flinders Lane were due to begin in June 2017.

But CBD News understands early works (before footpath widening and streetscape improvements) will now not start until 2021 after further delays in design approvals and flood modelling. While borehole investigations began in September, it’s now taken more than four years for the council to get final designs approved for construction.

The City of Melbourne did not answer ques- tions as to why the project would be put back again, despite an announcement in September that pre-Christmas works were due to begin. The street’s southern end is primarily made up of fast-food outlets and convenience stores and has long been earmarked for an upgrade. These include expanding pedestrian space by the size of a basketball court, installing street furniture and planting trees, closing the south- bound traffic lane to motorists, and mitigating the likelihood of flooding.

The works are important not only for a streetscape touch-up at the city’s “gateway”, but more importantly represents one of the CBD streets most in need of redeployed space for pedestrians.

A key pillar of the council’s 2030 Transport Strategy involves widening space for those of foot, who have reported feeling “cramped” in certain areas within the Hoddle Grid.

Pre-COVID-19, the Elizabeth St pedestrian crossing outside Flinders Street Station saw more than 9000 people cross every 60 minutes in the morning peak.

The project’s start date remains unconfirmed.

Elizabeth Street South upgrades: A timeline

  • May 2017: Upgrades to begin “next month”
  • December 2017: Works postponed until 2019 due to construction at 276 Flinders St
  • December 2017-February 2018: Summer “pop-up park”
  • May 2019: Works pushed back to “early 2020”
  • May 2020: Construction “estimated to commence in late August and completed by end of December”
  • September 2020: Early works “to commence next month”
  • December 2020: Future timeline unknown

UPDATE: Since publishing, the City of Melbourne has responded to CBD News's queries about Elizabeth St works.

According to the council, works are now due to begin in late January.

“Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge the wait on this project has been frustrating and we’ve had a number of additional hurdles this year,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

"We need to ensure this project is delivered in a timely manner to meet the expectations of our community. We also know that it’s been an extremely difficult year for our local businesses and the last thing we want to do is cause disruption just as they are able to reopen, that’s why we are waiting until early 2021 to start the works. Our number one priority is re-opening the city and supporting businesses to keep Melburnians in jobs, so we want to limit disruption during this crucial period.”

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