Distributing more chaos

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Herald Sun Editorial: Distributing more chaos 27 December 2014

AS revealed by the Herald Sun, road experts and local authorities fear the plan by Premier Daniel Andrews to end traffic congestion around the West Gate Bridge may make it worse.

Premier Andrews’ proposal to build a West Gate Distributor to take 5000 trucks a day off the bridge could create two further bottlenecks, they say.

Getting trucks off the West Gate will not solve the problem of a bridge being forced to carry four times as many vehicles as it was designed for.

Extra lanes have been added to either side of the bridge, but even five lanes to and from the city cannot accommodate up 200,000 cars, trucks and motorcycles a day. The bridge was built to carry 40,000.

So the Labor plan for a truck diversion ramp to carry a few thousand vehicles a day would be unlikely to prevent cars continuing to bank up for several kilometres in peak times.

And there are concerns the so-called distributor will worsen congestion as more trucks travel on and off the West Gate Freeway near the already clogged Williamstown Rd intersection, also as the new road doglegs into Whitehall St before joining Footscray Rd as it crosses the Maribyrnong River.

This is at best a short-term fix that could divert thousands more vehicles through the western suburbs, creating new traffic snarls.

Residents in Footscray, Seddon, Yarraville and Spotswood are also concerned their homes, parks and a golf course may be affected by plans they are still to see.

Councils in the area have called for more information and some families are worried their homes may be compulsorily acquired.

Is there any detailed plan or was it just an idea rebooted to allay concerns about Mr Andrews’ pledge to tear up the contracts for the East West Link?

The multi-billion-dollar East West Link was to be built in two stages. The first would have joined the Eastern Freeway to City Link and the second stage included a tunnel as the second major river crossing to take traffic away from the West Gate.

Tearing up the contracts for the first stage has meant the loss of 3700 jobs. Thousands more jobs would have opened up on the second stage.

Victorian taxpayers will be left to bear the financial cost. The consortium that signed contracts with the former Napthine government for the first stage have issued a breach of contract notice to the Andrews Government and legal action may take years to resolve.

The Herald Sun puts these compensation costs at $1.1 billion. This is “dead’’ money. Nothing will be built. Nothing will be gained.

Labor says in its defence that 10,000 construction jobs will be created through its West Gate Distributor, the removal of 50 level crossings and a metro rail system.

Removing lethal level crossings is a worthwhile project. So is expanding the rail system, but Labor has no guarantee that the $3 billion that was promised by the Federal Government for the East West Link will be diverted to these other projects.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been adamant the money was for East West, which was to become the nation’s biggest infrastructure project, and not for anything else.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has indicated money might be available for other projects if they are “shovel ready”. But even if the Federal Government does capitulate and diverts the East West money to other projects, the Victorian Government still has no proposal for a second major river crossing.

This is a major infrastructure problem that has confronted Victoria for more than a decade. The East West Link would have solved it. Now a new Government has taken the state back to square one.

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