Council keeping an eye on Distributor

The City of Melbourne has foreshadowed that it will oppose the Western Distributor project unless major changes are made to the road’s design.

The council is concerned about a number of elements of the $5.5 billion toll road proposed by toll-road operator Transurban, which could significantly impact Docklands and other inner-city areas.

At the July 19 Future Melbourne Committee meeting Councillors passed a motion asking the Acting CEO to write to the Premier of Victoria and Ministers for planning, transport and roads to advise that the City of Melbourne was reserving its right to oppose the project.

It has called on the Government to change a number of design elements of the project, including:

Removal of the Dynon Road exit;
Removal of the flyover cutting through E-Gate;

Removal of the Footscray Road double deck raised road option and an alternative at grade solution developed; and

Further “open and transparent” traffic modelling conducted with real-time and projected traffic scenarios for the CBD, Docklands, North and West Melbourne, Carlton and Parkville, including implications of Metro Rail and Grattan St closure.

The Docklands community holds particular concerns about the impact of extra traffic when Wurundjeri Way becomes a “city-bypass”.

Under current plans for the toll-road, east-bound traffic on Dynon Rd will be offered a non-tolled diversion around the west of the CBD via an extended Wurundjeri Way.

The impact of the project on the planned E-Gate neighbourhood also remains unclear, with a flyover from the toll road potentially affecting the key urban renewal area.

The move by Council followed a motion by Councillor Cathy Oke that the City of Melbourne should express its opposition to the Western Distributor project.

While Cr Oke’s motion was unsuccessful, a subsequent motion by Councillor Arron Wood that the City of Melbourne reserves its right to oppose the project was passed.

Cr Oke said there was strong support for Council to oppose the road project from Carlton, Kensington and Docklands.

She raised concerns about the lack of strategic planning, lack of integrated transport planning, impact on urban renewal areas like E-Gate, impact on other modes of transport such as pedestrian, cycling or trams and amenity issues.

“All of these concerns I believe were picked up in the analysis presented to the Future Melbourne Committee in May. Which actually was the impetus for my resolution, that on the night we were presented with this analysis whereby there were very few reasons to support the Western Distributor, based on our management’s analysis, but many, many reasons to oppose it,” Cr Oke said.

At the May 17 council meeting councillors were critical of the Western Distributor proposal and the negative impact it would have on the city.

However, at the July 19 meeting Councillor Arron Wood said Council needed to wait for the final Western Distributor design to be released and give the State Government the opportunity to rectify the issues raised by the City of Melbourne.

“I would simply say that at this stage we need to wait until the final design is reached, but if there’s not much movement on that design I will be supporting the opposition to this project,” Cr Wood said.

Addressing the councillors, Docklands Community Association President Roger Gardner said so far the community knew very little about the impact of the Western Distributor on Docklands and called on Councillors to continue to seek further information about the project and its impacts.

The State Government last month released the reference design for the Western Distributor project and is planning to hold community information hubs and pop-ups over the next few months to further inform planning and design.

It’s anticipated that the contract to build the Western Distributor will be awarded by the end of 2017 and construction will begin soon after.