Give the road under rail grade separation at Buckley Street a chance

Alastair TaylorMay 23, 20170 min read

Comment

Sub-optimal outcomes, perceived or otherwise, were always going to be included in the wider level crossing removal project, and Buckley Street in Essendon just so happens to be one of them.

In 2015, Urban.com.au took a look at the Moonee Valley-led council proposal to remove the level crossing at Buckley Street and apply a new structure plan to Essendon.  

To this day, the notion of removing the existing rail-over-road bridge at Mount Alexander Road and sinking the whole rail corridor under both a restored Mount Alexander Road and Buckley street appears to be the best case scenario.

However, if we take a look at it with fresh eyes after seeing the process of rolling out other level crossing removal projects, the gloss starts to wither away.

For starters as one commenter made mention in the original article, the originally predicted price tag of near $200 million would eat away into the overall budget and take funds away from completing another removal project in metro Melbourne.

Disruption would be huge and quite frankly unacceptable - removing an already grade-separated crossing, filling in the void created over a century ago and then digging another wide trench to fit a 3 platform station - is both profligate and would put the Craigieburn (and Seymour) lines out of action for months.  

Absolutely yes, if a rail line were to be taken out action for that amount of time, it would make sense to do other level crossings - Glenroy is also on the list - but budget for doing other local crossings like Park St and Puckle Street/Holmes Road in Moonee Ponds needs to come from somewhere.

The urban outcomes of the council-led plan tick a lot of boxes - better integration between rail and tram services, and they correct the wanton waste of land that is the Essendon station car park by developing on top of it as well as the sunken rail corridor - but it all comes down to disruption and budget.

One sledge against the preferred option for removing the Buckley Street level crossing is that it is a cheap solution.  Which in and of itself is interesting.  The detailed render in the lead image above depicts a far better urban realm than what currently exists at Buckley Street.

Employing Urban Designers does not come cheap and there's clearly been a lot of thought put it into the pedestrian realm.  In fact it's a massive upgrade over the current dominance of a 4 lane road choked with cars - never forget that, a level crossing is always the worst outcome, everything else is always better.

Whether this is an optimal or sub-optimal outcome, the land around Essendon station is changing and the station will solidify itself as the centre of the suburb soon enough - see the list of projects below.

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.
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