The Age: $4m Hoddle Street plan shelved – 21 March 2011

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The Age: $4m Hoddle Street plan shelved – 21 March 2011

A report into how to fix Hoddle Street’s traffic problems, commissioned by the Brumby government at a cost to taxpayers of almost $4 million, will be shelved.

The Baillieu government will this year begin planning work on a railway line to Doncaster, first promised by conservative Premier Henry Bolte in 1969.

Premier Ted Baillieu has promised the railway line will be built along the Eastern Freeway’s median strip, with an expected impact on the amount of traffic along the connecting Hoddle Street.

As a result, a $3.7 million Hoddle Street study by engineers URS Australia, commissioned last February by the former government, will now not make any recommendations.

VicRoads’ director of the Hoddle Street study project, Agnelo Duarte, said the study team had “developed a number of preliminary broad solutions”.

But recommendations for major infrastructure works, originally promised by the former government to come out of the study, will now not be made.

“The original assumptions and data will need to be revisited at a later stage to properly consider the outcomes of the Doncaster rail study,” Mr Duarte said.

The Doncaster study will not be completed until 2013, Coalition costings in the lead-up to November’s election show.

The latest Hoddle Street study followed another expensive investigation by the Brumby government, completed in 2008 by engineers GHD.

It explored tunnelling options from the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood to CityLink in Richmond.

Hoddle Street is one of Melbourne’s busiest arterial roads. In Richmond it carries 60,000 cars a day, and in Collingwood near the Eastern Freeway, nearly 90,000, VicRoads figures from last March show.

Transport groups said it was disappointing nothing would now be done.

Peter Daly of the RACV said he understood the rationale for shelving the study, but was “disappointed, given the amount of congestion on Hoddle Street”.

Short-term fixes such as “green-lighting buses and trams at traffic lights” would improve traffic flow, Mr Daly said. “But something major needs to be done.”

URS Australia looked at options including building a long tunnel for buses under Hoddle Street from the Eastern Freeway to Victoria Parade, the introduction of overhead gantries so that traffic could flow different ways during the day, and an 800-metre long tunnel on Hoddle Street under the Johnston Street intersection.

Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said the Hoddle Street study had always been flawed, because it never considered the Doncaster railway line, which Labor ruled out building.

While major work on Hoddle Street will now not happen, the Department of Transport is looking at short-term plans to improve peak-time bus lanes.

Opposition roads spokeswoman Jacinta Allan said that, by shelving the report, “it appears the only plan the Baillieu government has for Melbourne’s road users is congestion and chaos”.

But a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Terry Mulder said Ms Allan “has a cheek saying anything about roads, given they had 11 years to address congestion”, and had left a legacy of problems like those on Hoddle Street.

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