East West Link: Warning of community backlash

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Maribyrnong & Hobsons Bay Star Weekly: East West Link: Warning of community backlash. Benjamin Millar. 30 July 2014

Samantha McArthur, with son William, says the East West Link will not be an end-all solution. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Construction of a freeway linking Melbourne’s east and west could begin next year following the state government’s call for tenders on the western section of the East West Link.

But opponents are vowing to fight tooth and nail for the funds to be spent on public transport rather than a new road.

Calling for tenders on the $8 billion to $10 billion project and the Melbourne Rail Link last week, Treasurer Michael O’Brien said successful tender teams would carry out technical investigations and advise on environment and urban design.

“There’s strong local and international interest in delivering these projects and we’re engaging with industry early to ensure we secure strong competition for their delivery,” Mr O’Brien said.

Roads Minister Terry Mulder said sending design and planning to the market would keep construction on track to begin by the end of next year.

“These projects are a vital part of Victoria’s future road and rail networks and, together, they will strengthen Victoria’s prosperity and stimulate economic growth,” Mr Mulder said.

But the Greens warned community opposition would continue.

Western Metropolitan MP Colleen Hartland said surveys and polls showed people wanted money spent on public transport ahead of roads.

“The people of the western suburbs don’t want this dirty, polluting tollway through their neighbourhoods,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ve fought off this proposal before and we’ll do it again.”

Ms Hartland said the community remained in the dark about the road’s likely impact because the government refused to release maps of the route.

“The community knows that public transport is the most cost-effective and sustainable solution to Melbourne’s transport problems,’’ she said.

Maribyrnong Truck Action Group president Samantha McArthur said the project was flagged in a 2007 report by Sir Rod Eddington that also outlined a need for greater public transport investment.

“We don’t think it will be an end-all solution,’’ Ms McArthur said.

‘‘If it’s a toll road, we know people operating with tight margins will avoid those tolls.

“No one road is going to solve all the transport and traffic issues in Melbourne.

‘‘It’s important to look beyond single, huge infrastructure spends and look at capacity on the existing road network.”

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