Residents unhappy over “secretive” local West Gate Tunnel projects

Residents unhappy over “secretive” local West Gate Tunnel projects
Brendan Rees

A $100 million “transport and amenity program” (TAP) that was supposed to ease traffic impacts in Docklands and West Melbourne when the West Gate Tunnel opens is being used to finance projects in the CBD, outraging residents.

The amenity program, a 50-50 funding split between the City of Melbourne and state government, is aimed at delivering projects to improve streetscapes, transport, and amenity of the areas expected to be affected by the West Gate Tunnel Project (WGTP), which is expected to open in late 2025. 

Key projects in the planning stages that the money will go towards include a masterplan for Spencer St North, a Hawke St linear park in West Melbourne, and streetscape improvements on Franklin St, as well as a new park which will sit above the future underground State Library Metro station. 

But according to the state government, some of the funds are proposed for new tram stops on William St while the City of Melbourne said “projects already delivered” in 2022 included bike lanes on La Trobe St, Abbotsford St, William St, and Peel St. 

Other projects “delivered” from the program include a “connecting Docklands to North Melbourne feasibility study,” a “Victoria St opportunities plan,” and a “Peel St corridor study,” with the council also proposing to spend money on a new linear park outside the North Melbourne Town Hall

But residents say they have been left in the dark about how the program’s funds are being allocated and spent, while not addressing the real issues that the WGTP will create for the community.   

North and West Melbourne Association secretary and former Lord Mayor Kevin Chamberlin said, “The only thing that everybody seems to agree on is that when the West Gate Tunnel opens, the movement of traffic and volumes are unclear.” 

As reported in Docklands News in 2017, the project’s original traffic modelling forecasted that the extension between Dynon Rd and Wurundjeri Way as part of a new city bypass would carry up to 19,000 vehicles per day.  

Wurundjeri Way, which is getting an extra lane in each direction, is predicted to carry up to 16,000 vehicles per day by 2031.

Developer David Napier, executive director of Digital Harbour at Docklands, said his company made a submission several years ago outlining their concern about “the lack of thought that appears to have gone into the intersection of Wurundjeri Way and Flinders St”.


“It’s already a bit of a bottleneck and it doesn’t appear that anything has been done to address that issue or to try to create a wider funnel at that end to get the traffic beyond the Flinders St intersection,” he said.


Mr Napier said this could create problems of trucks as well as general traffic choosing to use Harbour Esplanade to access Flinders St via the Charles Grimes Bridge “without going through that intersection in Wurundjeri Way” and “potentially pushing traffic back onto Footscray Rd and Harbour Esplanade.”

West Melbourne resident Mary Masters, whose children attend Docklands Primary School, said the community wanted “good safety outcomes” to mitigate huge amounts of traffic when the tunnel opened, adding residents had the right to fell “cheated” over the amenity program’s spending.

“We are yet to hear from any government stakeholders about how the transport and amenity funding will deliver good outcomes for Docklands, West Melbourne and North Melbourne or evidence of traffic modelling or community consultation that points to what amenity improvements are needed,” she said.

Ms Masters said one project that could potentially be funded through the scheme was improving pedestrian safety along Footscray Rd.

“There is no separation from trams when crossing Footscray Rd, and pedestrians compete with bike riders for space on the footpath outside school which frustrates cyclists and is terrifying for kids,” she said.

“We are aware of early conversations had over the past few years about moving the Footscray Rd pedestrian crossing towards Little Docklands Drive and incorporating a new Footscray Rd tram stop.”

“This solution could have beneficial safety and traffic flow outcomes for pedestrians, cyclists, tram passengers and car drivers if planned and executed successfully and with community consultation.”

A Docklands Representative Group spokesperson said transparency surrounding the TAP raised “significant concerns for Docklands residents and businesses”, particularly in relation to increased traffic with an expanded Wurundjeri Way.

“In addition, locals are concerned about the increased bike traffic coming to Docklands via the new Veloway which will combine with the explosion of eScooters and eBikes on our already congested bike paths and, frustratingly, footpaths,” the DRG spokesperson said.

“Residents deserve clarity on how these changes will affect daily life and the environment and how TAP can help mitigate these impacts and better align with community needs and values.”

The City of Melbourne openly opposed the West Gate Tunnel project when it was originally announced by the state government due to the significant influx of additional vehicles it will bring into the city.  

When the transport and amenity program (TAP) was originally negotiated in 2018, then Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood told Docklands News that despite a shared commitment on TAP, it “fundamentally” disagreed with the state government on the WGTP.  

“We have a shared commitment to these projects [TAP], while acknowledging disagreement on the project fundamentally. They are acknowledging that we don’t support the project, but they are coming to the party on mitigating some of those impacts,” Cr Wood said. 

But Mr Chamberlin told Docklands News that “the community was led to believe the money was only to be spent when the tunnel was open and the issues identified.”  

“To find that the council and the government are planning to spend some of it in the CBD is an absolute betrayal of the community.”

“If the council thinks it’s such as great idea [to fund projects in the CBD through the amenity scheme] why are they doing it in an underhand way?” 

He added that due to the uncertainty of the traffic being pumped into the local area, “it’s not very smart of the council and government’s transport department to be proposing to spend this money in this secretive fashion”. 

The City of Melbourne did not respond to questions about how much of the transport and amenity program had been spent or what other future projects had been proposed or how they were chosen. 

According to a council report in 2022, stakeholder and community engagement was “undertaken on a project-by-project basis,” and “council is working with DTP (Department of Transport and Planning) on a joint communications strategy, with a view to releasing information about the program objectives and key projects in 2022”, which residents say they have never seen. 

City of Melbourne Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the council would engage the community, stakeholders, and traditional owners on project proposals “to secure positive outcomes for local residents, businesses and visitors impacted by the Victorian Government’s West Gate Tunnel project”. 

“Design works are well under way for streetscape improvements and a new linear park on Hawke St. Upgrades will include a significant amount of new green space along with traffic calming measures.” 

“As drivers opt to use the tunnel, we’re looking at opportunities for the future of Spencer St in North Melbourne. One option I am keen on is to make it into a pedestrian-friendly area like Lygon or Errol streets – bringing more visitors and business to the area.” 

RMIT University’s emeritus professor of environment and planning Michael Buxton said he predicted “very large volumes of vehicles” would be pumped into North and West Melbourne, which was “a classic example of a freeway dumping traffic onto congested conventional streets that are separated from another freeway”. 

“Why dump traffic on the streets and then try and improve the amenity of those streets? I mean they’re contradictory aims,” he said.

“It strongly indicates that nobody’s in charge. Nobody seems to have a proper strategic overview of the relationship between traffic movements and amenity at all.” 

The community was invited to have their say on the Hawke St linear park and proposed Franklin St projects, with a consultation summary published on the council’s Participate Melbourne website. •

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