East West Freeway plans show huge impact zone in Royal Park: Horrific

The proposed freeway link.

Large sections of Royal Park could be dug up to lay freeway tunnels and construct overpasses as part of the massive construction program linking the Eastern Freeway to CityLink.

New state government documents show a massive impact zone for the proposed freeway covering most of Royal Park.

The multibillion dollar freeway is the state government’s number one transport priority and the new East West Link documents were lodged with the federal government as part of the environmental approval process.

he freeway work is expected to lock the public out of sections of Royal Park for years and it is not clear if areas of the park will be lost permanently.

Melbourne city councillor Jackie Watts was critical of the effect the freeway would have on Royal Park.

“They should not be allowed to plough through one of the most beautiful parks in Melbourne – it is not free land,” she said.

he massive freeway footprint stretches from the Melbourne General Cemetery to CityLink and north past the Zoo, almost to Royal Park Station.

The freeway work could involve large tunnel excavations in Royal Park and an elevated freeway stretching from the tunnel to CityLink.

“The connection to CityLink would be a combination of tunnels and elevated structures (viaducts). Potential construction techniques within Royal Park could include both driven tunnel and cut and cover methodologies,” the referral to the federal government says.

At the Eastern Freeway end, the report said “the tunnel portal would be in the vicinity of Hoddle Street”.

A spokeswoman for the State Government said the exact route and construction methodology for the East West Link, including within Royal Park, was “subject to the business case currently under consideration and formal planning under the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009”.

She said geotechnical testing conducted within Royal Park last year “confirmed positive conditions for tunnelling, with sections of tunnel expected to reduce permanent impacts on the parkland significantly”.

“It is anticipated that tunnelling would be used in Royal Park to reduce environmental impacts. We know that some bridging would be required to connect into CityLink, which is itself elevated.”

She said construction of the East West Link was “likely to take several years”.

“Measures will be put in place during construction to limit any community impacts, including those within Royal Park,” she said.

She said the public would be consulted about the project “once decisions are made about the project and formal planning progresses”.

Brian Negus of the RACV said the freeway connection “was absolutely critical to improve mobility in Melbourne” and the freeway work was unlikely to cause long-term damage to Royal Park.

He said previous freeway construction had left environmentally sensitive areas “in better condition than when they started – for example CityLink across the Yarra River and into the city”.

The government’s referral document said project planning and the Victorian environmental assessment and approvals phase was under way and expected to be completed next year.

It said the timing of construction “would be a matter for determination by the Victorian Government”.

State Greens MP Greg Barber said the new freeway would not reduce congestion.

“Anyone who thinks this is going to reduce traffic in the inner city is kidding themselves. This is going to turn inner Melbourne into a giant set of on and off-ramps,” Mr Barber said.

Yarra City Council Mayor, Jackie Fristacky, said the freeway was a “misuse of public resources” and called for the government to prioritise a railway line to Doncaster.

“It (the planned freeway) is the worst excesses of 1970s planning, where is the consulting with the community?” she said.

Secretary of Protectors of Public Land Victoria, Julianne Bell, said the plans for the freeway were “extremely concerning”.

“It is the final nail in the coffin of Royal Park,” she said.

Jason Dowling, The Age, March 26, 2013

 Age Poll: Should the freeway through Royal Park be a tunnel and not a bridge?

Yes: 85%
No: 15%
Total votes: 2731
Poll closed 27 Mar, 2013
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