Locals invited to join traffic fight

The Docklands community has been invited to join neighbouring West Melbourne in a fight to change aspects of the West Gate Tunnel project.

Despite the project already getting underway, resident group Western Connection says the state government can still modify the plan.

Speaking at the September 19 Docklands Community Forum (DCF), local activists called on Docklanders to let the government know that consequences of the project were unacceptable in their current form.

RMIT Urban Planning Associate Professor Andrew Butt said: “While it has been agreed, we think it’s going to lead to such a poor outcome that we need to make sure the state government knows that this is something that we are not going to just walk away from.”

“We genuinely have concerns and it will lead to genuine consequences for communities in West Melbourne and Docklands,” Prof Butt said.

One of West Melbourne Connection’s major concerns is the effect that the elevated Wurundjeri Way extension will have on future connections between West Melbourne and Docklands.

Prof Butt said the road extension seriously compromised any future development of E-Gate, particularly in terms of connections between the two suburbs via North Melbourne station.

“It’s as though this site is up for grabs and there’s really no cohesive thought given to it,” he said. “E-Gate was a master-planned proposal which has simply become an up-for-grabs corridor for whatever development idea comes up.”

The Wurundjeri Way Extension is designed to divert traffic out of West and North Melbourne around the CBD and into Docklands. Project traffic modelling predicts an extra 16,000 vehicles per day will use Wurundjeri Way.

Traffic consultancy GHD also predicts Harbour Esplanade will carry 16,000 vehicles every day by 2031.

And these numbers do not include the results of $100 million worth of “traffic calming” in West and North Melbourne, which will see even more cars and trucks heading for Docklands.

Western Connection chairman Anthony McKee said his group had alternative road and bicycle options, which would achieve the same outcomes as the West Gate Tunnel without the negative local consequences.

“Western Connection believes you can get the same outcome if you build Footscray Rd in its existing form but you cut the roadway across the bottom corner of the E-Gate site with a soft left hand turn into Dudley St and an overpass across the top of that into Wurundjeri Way,” he said. “This would deliver a very similar outcome and would leave the E-Gate for a much better opportunity.”

Mr McKee also proposed an alternative bicycle route which would also turn east at Dudley St, traverse along Wurundjeri Way and connect with LaTrobe and Collins streets.

“You’re actually shifting cyclists closer to the city where many of them are trying to get to anyway,” he said.

He pointed out that the West Gate Tunnel project proposed to dump thousands of cyclists onto Harbour Esplanade.

“That bike traffic will continue down the esplanade which is quite sad because part of the problem you’ve got in Docklands is that interface between cyclists and pedestrians,” he said.

Mr McKee asked the DCF to support a joint submission to government requesting changes to the project.

“What we need from you is your support,” he said. “We’d like to go as a broader community because single voices aren’t working. I think we need a louder voice and we can do that together.”

A West Gate Tunnel Project spokesperson said: “The West Gate Tunnel Project has been shaped by two years of community consultation and construction is now underway.”

“Significant changes were made to the Wurundjeri Way extension in response to the Environment Effects Statement process, to help get the full potential out of the E-Gate development site.”

“The lowering of the Wurundjeri Way extension better facilitates connections between North Melbourne and Docklands.”

“The lowered Wurundjeri Way extension will create a city bypass, taking traffic off Spencer and King streets, and provides the opportunity for future vehicle access for E-Gate directly from Wurundjeri Way.”

Mr McKee can be contacted at [email protected]

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