The state government’s West Gate Tunnel, a new $5.5 billion toll road for Melbourne’s western suburbs, has been given the green light by planning minister Richard Wynne.
Mr Wynne announced on Monday morning that he has signed off on the Environmental Effects Statement (EES), the final hurdle for the project to proceed.
The road project, an unsolicited proposal by toll road operators Transurban, will connect the West Gate Freeway to the Port of Melbourne, CityLink and the Melbourne CBD via twin tunnels under Yarraville, three new bridges over the Maribyrnong River and an elevated freeway above Footscray Road.
It has been criticised by Hobsons Bay and Melbourne councils and sparked opposition by residents living in Spotswood, South Kingsville, Altona North and Brooklyn, who will be hardest hit by extra truck traffic.
Better West – Spotswood South Kingsville Residents Group spokeswoman Rosa McKenna said the community, particularly Brooklyn, had been “hung out to dry”.
“We don’t feel we’ve been listened to,” she said.
“This project will decimate the development of the west, confining us to cars and trucks into history, really.”
Don’t Destroy Millers Road spokesman Chris Dunlevy said the increased truck traffic was devastating for Brooklyn, which was already Melbourne’s most polluted suburb.
“The Brooklyn community is beyond shattered,” he said.
“We trusted the process and have been completely let down.”
Mr Dunlevy said offering some double glazing for the residents on Millers does nothing for the congestion, pollution and safety problems coming their way.
“We are crying out for public transport. This project will be devastating on our physical and mental health.
“The state government should hang their heads in shame – RIP Brooklyn.”
Newport resident Pat Love said Hobsons Bay lobby groups were likely to join with groups across Melbourne in light of the “retrograde step”.
The state government has allocated $1.4 billion to the project and Transurban has undertaken to provide the remainder, in exchange for a 12-year extension to tolling on CityLink – estimated to be providing an extra $20 to $30 billion in toll revenue.
Mr Wynne says the project will slash congestion, reduce travel times and create 6000 jobs.
“This project will slash congestion and keep neighbourhood streets quieter and safer. We’re planning properly and we’re getting it done,” he said.
“There will be significant impacts during construction, but we’re getting the planning right to ensure disruptions are minimised and both the community and the environment are protected.”
Mr Wynne is recommending the state government acquire a number of homes on Hyde Street in Yarraville, at the request of the owners due to the project pushing up to 1500 more trucks past their home each day by 2031.
But Mr Wynne has rejected calls by the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group for the filtration of tunnel ventilation emissions, accepting the EPA’s submission that it would do little to improve local air quality.
Earlier this month, Hobsons Bay council voted to officially oppose the West Gate Tunnel, expressing anger at increased freight traffic and the effect of diesel fumes on residents’ health.
The council said numerous recommendations had been refused, including truck bans on Millers Road, Mason Street, Kororoit Creek Road (east of Millers Road), North Road and High Street.
Maribyrnong Council supports the project in principle due to the chance to reduce truck traffic on Francis Street in Yarraville, but had called for a number of changes to reduce its impact on the Maribyrnong River and its banks including the scrapping of the MacKenzie Road ramps river providing freight access to Swanson Dock West – a request that was denied by the minster due to “no feasible alternative” being presented.
Western suburbs Greens MP Colleen Hartland said Labor has sold out on the community and approved a toll road that only serves Transurban’s bottom line.
“Just look at the evidence, Labor’s own experts have said the toll road won’t solve traffic in the west,” she said.
“There is a huge thirst for better public transport in the west.”
Construction is due to start early next year.
– with Goya Dmytryshchak