Calls to "build the East-West Link" persist - perhaps its time to redefine it?

Calls to "build the East-West Link" persist - perhaps its time to redefine it?
Calls to "build the East-West Link" persist - perhaps its time to redefine it?

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the latest industry body, lobby or political group to add 'building the East-West Link' to an infrastructure wishlist.  

Their top priority is planning for an airport in Melbourne's south east, presumably one out on the former Koo Wee Rup swamp at Monomeith, and the East-west Link is number two on the list, as reported in the HUN.

“What I’m talking about there is the white vans making deliveries,” Mark Stone, chief executive of the VCCI, told the Herald Sun. “We are still saying that the East West Link is a vital part of infrastructure. Politics is such that if Labor is elected it will not be done at the next election term.”

Let's unpackage that statement.

How would a tunnel linking the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways aid in allowing 'the white vans making deliveries around the city'? 

The primary benefit of large-scale road building in the inner city for the freight & logistics sectors is that transport from entry points - like the Port of Melbourne - to distribution centres becomes faster.  Little white vans don't pick their deliveries up from the docks, they get them from a distribution centre.

If we cast our minds back to the East-West link as approved by the former planning minister, there was to be an entry and exit ramp for Flemington Road coming out of the tunnel from the east and a triangle interchange with the Tullamarine Freeway/City Link that would have consumed a fair chunk of Royal Park (see Red + Black Architect's analysis in the lead image above).

Traffic from the east would be deposited on Flemington Road; would be directed onto CityLink either north or southbound or would be set to travel further, once the second phase of the project was completed, down the new road past the port and into the western tunnel.

I struggle to see how that specific set up would help the little white vans making deliveries around the inner-city.

In many ways, groups lobbying for more road projects in the inner-city are living the 50s, 60s and 70s dream of complete freedom in private vehicles - our roads are all open-access, some of them you have to pay a toll, but we don't designate specific roads for a specific purpose and perhaps this is where the East-West Link truly lost the argument with the local communities affected by it.

The project, as approved by Matthew Guy and just like the West Gate Tunnel and North East Link under the Andrews Government banks on the fact there will be a lot of toll-paying private vehicle usage when the centre of the city is the place where we not only don't want, but really don't need more private vehicles jockeying for public space.  Central Melbourne isn't the hole in the doughnut city we were of the 1980s anymore.

Another key argument for the East-West link, back in the day, was it provided a second high-quality road crossing between Western and Eastern Melbourne, yet now we're seeing an enormous road project that's going to do just that - the North East Link.  It will also link the industrial and logistics sectors in the north with Melbourne's east.

Infrastructure Victoria still has some form of link from the Eastern Freeway to Citylink in its needs assessment - and it's much vaguer than other projects on its list.

If the East-West Link ever rears its ugly head again, perhaps next time the proposal should be for a complete bypass tunnel, a single lane in each direction, for freight vehicles only.

I'm guessing it mightn't stack up, therefore, it would rely on private vehicles, which in turn would expand the scope - you'd need more traffic lanes - and then we'd be back to square one. It's been 4 years since local communities and councils were out with the pitchforks, it''s still very much in people's mind and since then the inner-city has seen even more people move to it.

In order to let the little white vans make their deliveries more efficiently, the focus should be on getting more people out of their cars in the inner-city so the existing high-quality arterial network can see more productive use by the logistics sector.

Lead image credit: Red + Black Architect.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

Comments (6)

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LeonG
Make it a 15 - 20 story parking facilty (or wider span). Have a dedicated tram track on Victoria Pde, cut through Spring St (remove parallel parking), turn right onto Lonsdale St (remove parallel parking). Tram terminal outside QV. The people of Collingwood and surrounds need their streets back. Melbourne's first Air Tram.
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johnproctor

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LeonG
I know, decking is a dirty word. It may be that what is needed is a behavioral influence approach. People need to be encouraged out of their cars where it truly counts. Imagine a dedicated lane on the freeway that takes vehicles directly into the transport hup/parking facility. Onlookers sitting in the unofficial mega car park will look and weep. It won't be long until they change their behaviour and join the club. If the space on top of the Hoddle bridge can be utilised (especially for the tram terminal) it may mean that a 6 to 8 story car park would suffice. How much money is the government willing to invest in getting more cars out of the CBD and improving the quality of people's lives?
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johnproctor
Note sure a deck would be cost effective but you never know.

Note: not suggesting support for EWL being revived just hypothethising one way in which is could be revived.

Matthew Guy seems to have flagged that revised plans for East West Link would be needed and obviously given Labor cancelled the planning approval that would be the case.

The beauty of Transurban's West Gate Tunnel play (that Guy has now committed to build as well) is that it would link into an east west link as well.

The old east west link was about a 4.5km tunnel.

A direct Westgate Tunnel to Eastern Freeway tunnel is about 5.5-6km. Perhaps Guy is thinking a tunnel starting east of Hoddle Street (not west as the old EWL did) and connecting more directly to West Gate Tunnel (avoiding Royal Park and extensive new elevated viaduct along the Moonee Ponds Creek) is a good plan... That idea and mega interchange near Dynon Road/Footscray Road on port and related freight land would be less controversial as it direclty impacts less people (although impacts future development potential significantly).

From a roads perpsective this would diminish the Eastern to Tulla component of the old East West Link but with both sides now committed to North East Link that is probably less important.

This alignment would be a port to eastern freeway connection, probably reduce traffic on Hoddle Street (heading from north to west currently via Hoddle/Swan/Power Street ramps), reduce traffic on Alexandra and Victoria and provide a true alternative to the City Link Tunnels and West Gate Bridge in the event of an incident.

It would also seriously load up the West Gate Freeway - but that will be widened to 8-10 lanes in each direction as part of the Westgate Tunnel project.
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LeonG
If the East-West Link doesn't get the go ahead for a while, one solution towards minimising its infamous bottleneck could be perhaps to deck the end of the freeway and build a mega carpark. Perhaps the decking could be built between the existing Hoddle bridge and train bridge. This would be based on the idea that a large number of cars stuck in the bottleneck are from people with jobs in the CBD who either insist on driving in to the city or feel that they have no choice because of where they live. A project like this could perhaps delay the need for the East-West link for a while. Similar to my comment on your "All Roads Lead To The Southern Cross" article this would take many cars off the road at the point where the freeway ends. An elevated tram line and veloway could then be built right along the middle of Hoddle St from the mega car park to Victoria Pde. The track would curve and descend over the Hoddle St and Victoria Pde intersection and connect with the existing tram track on Victoria Pde. This would bring workers directly into the CBD but their cars will be left out of it. Keep in mind that the North-East Link is guaranteed to add to the bottleneck. The Doncaster bus running along the freeway would also stop at this transport hub picking up more passengers. There is much scope for increasing the number of buses along this route, as well as creating new routes, once the Doncaster Busway is built. A new train station would also make sense adding to the transport options at this hub. A project like this would no doubt make money, though it would be initially quite costly. Monetary returns would come by means of CBD workers during weekdays, as well as football fans on weekends who could park their car and jump on the train to the MCG. A taxi rank would also be useful for many people using this hub. A long-term car park could also be incorporated where one could leave their car and catch a cab to the airport. Handy if you live in Carrum Downs. I use the Eastern Freeway regularly for trips into the CBD. The bottleneck completely ruins the otherwise pleasant experience of driving on this broad and generally civilised road.
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