Maribyrnong Council has thrown its conditional support behind the proposed $5.5 billion Western Distributor toll road, provided that parkland in Yarraville is spared and a blanket ban is imposed on trucks on local roads.

A council officer’s report to Tuesday night’s meeting stated the Western Distributor could “relieve significant ongoing issues with freight on residential arterial roads in the inner west”.

Councillors voted 4-3 in favour of providing in-principle support to the project.

The council meeting followed a City of Melbourne report claiming the project was “a significant opportunity cost” with potential negative impact on land uses and traffic closer to the city.

The Maribyrnong report noted key concerns with design options including the built form, potential impact on open space and recreation, impacts on residential amenity during and after construction, and increased traffic due to drivers avoiding tolls.

The report backed the “long tunnel option” connecting the Western Distributor to the West Gate Freeway via a southern portal at the freeway.

It also called for “Option 5”, connecting the freeway to Hyde Street via Hall Street and Simcock Avenue in Spotswood, a move likely to be resisted in Hobsons Bay due to its impact on sports grounds.

Additional works and measures “required as a minimum” included truck bans on Yarraville’s Francis Street and Somerville Road and Footscray’s Buckley and Moore streets, extra noise barriers on the West Gate Freeway, and completion of the Federation Trail as a continuous off-road shared path.

The council also warned rat running would increase unless a number of steps were taken such as ensuring the Hyde Street ramps were used only by dangerous goods and local trucks.

The report noted that failing to ban trucks on Buckley and Moore streets would “relocate and intensify issues”, eroding the potential benefits of the project.

The report echoed concerns about a new bridge crossing the Maribyrnong River, as reported by Star Weekly earlier this month, noting it would impact on the appeal of the river environment and harm longer-term chances to extend public access to the river from Lyons Street to Francis Street.

Attracting community support

Greens MP Colleen Hartland said banning container trucks on local streets and keeping parklands was essential for the project to gain community support.

“While the council supports the road in principle, if truck bans and parkland protection are not part of the final design, I hope they will take a harder line for the community’s sake,” she said.

“The problem with building more roads is that it encourages more people to drive, and driving is a far less efficient and clean way of moving people into the city, as the Melbourne report shows.”