The $5.5 billion Western Distributor is expected to cut travel times and bring relief to residents impacted by heavy truck traffic in the inner-west.
But lengthy traffic disruptions during its construction will be unavoidable, and the final route will leave some people worse off.
The project will widen the West Gate Freeway from eight to 12 lanes between the M80 Ring Road at Laverton North and Williamstown Road, and build twin tunnels under Yarraville to meet a new bridge crossing the Maribyrnong River and an elevated road along Footscray Road, linking to Citylink, the port and the CBD.
The state government says Transurban’s proposal could remove as many as 6000 trucks from local streets.
The new road is forecast to divert up to 22,000 vehicles a day off the West Gate Bridge and carry between 50,000 and 70,000 vehicles a day by 2031.
A government business case, released in December, says the project could cut peak time travel by up to 20 minutes a day, create 5600 new jobs and deliver an $11 billion boost to Victoria’s economy.
An additional 4.5km of new cycling and pedestrian paths have been flagged, including completion of the long-awaited Federation Trail.
Existing truck curfews on local roads will be extended, but the government is yet to reveal whether it will bow to pressure for a blanket ban across all inner-west residential roads.
An Environment Effects Statement is being prepared with the design to be finalised in consultation with the community, local government and industry.
Decisions are yet to be made on the location of tunnel entrances and the route of new ramps for fuel trucks and other dangerous vehicles to connect directly with Hyde Street.
Maribyrnong council and Yarraville residents are likely to favour the longer tunnel option, reducing impacts on parkland and nearby houses, while Hobsons Bay council and Spotswood residents and sporting groups will prefer the shorter tunnel, which would also be cheaper and less disruptive.
Hobsons Bay mayor Peter Hemphill said the council needs to closely consider all the design options before formalising its position.
“We know that the key concerns of our community relate to potential land acquisitions, impacts on local sporting facilities, excess noise, air pollution, traffic volumes and general residential amenity,” he said.
“Another issue is to receive assurances there will be minimal impacts on traffic flows in and out of the CBD during the construction phase, so as to ensure rat runs don’t develop in our residential streets as motorists try to avoid delays on the freeway.”
Consultation sessions continue this week at Altona North (Wednesday), Yarraville (Thursday) and Footscray (Saturday).
For more information, visit www.westerndistributorproject.vic.gov.au