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Council betrays Docklands for $50 million

30 Aug 2018

Council betrays Docklands for $50 million Image

By Shane Scanlan

The City of Melbourne has accepted $50 million from the state government to protect West and North Melbourne and divert even more West Gate Tunnel project traffic into Docklands.

The betrayal of Docklands to the benefit of more politically-vocal residential areas to our north-east was announced by the Treasurer Tim Pallas and the Lord Mayor Sally Capp on August 24.

In a press release, Mr Pallas said: “This partnership with Melbourne City Council will revitalise public space and improve traffic flow in West Melbourne while we get on with the West Gate Tunnel.”

The city has agreed to match the state funding but, critically, the proposal has not come before the council. Nor has there been any studies, traffic modelling or specific proposals about how the $100 million will be spent.

From a Docklands perspective, it’s easy to characterise the deal as a betrayal. At its most benign, the $50 million state funding is “hush money” to buy the council’s silence in the lead up to the November state election.

In the press release, the government said: “The package will improve traffic flow and public space in West Melbourne and (will) be rolled out alongside new parklands in Moonee Ponds Creek as part of an expanded master plan, while the Labor Government delivers the West Gate Tunnel and other major transport projects.”

“The West Gate Tunnel will extend Wurundjeri Way, creating a new city bypass and taking thousands of cars off CBD streets.”

“To make the most of these changes, a joint City of Melbourne and Transport for Victoria study will identify a package of amenity improvements.”

“The study will look at improvements to areas including Spencer, King and William streets and the Arden St precinct, traffic in North and West Melbourne, and better access from North Melbourne to the Docklands.”

The City of Melbourne was a vocal critic of the West Gate Tunnel project, protesting early about a predicted 16,000 extra vehicles per day expected to be diverted into Wurundjeri Way.

But, at a panel hearing into the environmental effects of the project on August 28 last year, the council’s expert traffic consultant supported the Wurundjeri Way proposal.

Mr Stephen Hunt from Ratio Consultants said: “In my opinion, the extension of Wurundjeri Way to connect with Dynon Rd west of CityLink would provide an overall positive benefit to traffic movement within the North and West Melbourne areas.”

And, with $100 million to be further spent encouraging traffic to stay out of West and North Melbourne and divert via Docklands, Wurundjeri Way and Harbour Esplanade will bear the burden.

The Lord Mayor said: “Through this partnership we will see enhanced streetscapes rolled out across important roads in West Melbourne while also creating an improved Moonee Ponds Creek for residents and visitors to enjoy.”

The last public glimpse of the council’s agenda for traffic calming in West and North Melbourne was on February 6 this year when councillors instructed staff to pursue the state to “obtain formal commitment, funding and delivery" of 10 legacy projects.

Among them was an ambition to convert Spencer and Clarendon streets from arterial to local roads between Dryburgh St and Normanby Rd “to facilitate improvements to pedestrian safety and urban amenity especially near Southern Cross Station and in West Melbourne”.

Another was to: “Improving traffic and access including funding streetscape upgrades on Spencer and Franklin streets, funding other traffic mitigation works in North Melbourne, West Melbourne, Docklands and the CBD.”

A third was: “No further expansion of road capacity or change to the status of local roads in North Melbourne, West Melbourne and Docklands to accommodate extra traffic from the project.

And: “Commitment to work with the City of Melbourne to ensure that the operation of the new intersection between the Wurundjeri Way extension and the Dynon Rd connection does not have unintended negative consequences, such as increased traffic on the Dynon Rd Bridge Link and in local streets.”

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