Government bows to pressure from home owners affected by the East West Link

The Age: Government bows to pressure from home owners affected by the East West Link. March 5, 2014. Adam Carey, Transport Reporter for The Age

The cost of acquiring property to build the East West Link is set to increase by millions of dollars after the Napthine government said it would consider buying homes just outside the project boundary.

The government has previously said it would not buy homes or business premises outside the project boundary for the multibillion-dollar toll road, but on Tuesday relented to pressure from affected residents and said it would consider any case.

Speaking on day two of the 30-day hearing on the East West Link, planning lawyer Stuart Morris, QC, told the assessment panel the government would buy property outside the project area if the case was made that those property owners stood to be badly affected by the planned road.

A spokesman for state agency the Linking Melbourne Authority later confirmed the government’s changed position: ”A number of property owners have made submissions to LMA and to the independent panel requesting acquisition, and a number of these owners will be presenting to the panel later in the hearings,” the spokesman said. ”The Assessment Committee may consider and recommend to the government that LMA voluntarily acquire properties outside the currently proposed project area.”

The government has already been approached by 26 property owners at the Kensington Warehouse Apartments in Bent Street, asking to be bought out. The project boundary runs along the footpath outside the apartment building. It previously agreed to purchase the EVO apartment building in Parkville because a small part of the property is inside the project boundary.

On day two of the hearings the authority also submitted a strong defence of the road, arguing building stage one of the East West Link would create the capacity for an extra 120,000 trips a day on Melbourne’s overloaded roads.

It would also give Melbourne’s eastern suburbs an unbroken run to and from Melbourne Airport for the first time, the authority said in its opening submission.

The authority submitted on Tuesday that stage one of the East West Link – which would be built between the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood and Tullamarine Freeway in Flemington – would reduce traffic congestion for the vast majority of Victorians and ensure freight moved more quickly and efficiently across the city and the state.

The case for improving Melbourne’s east-west transport links was undeniable, it said.

”That there is a significant problem with east-west road connectivity in Melbourne cannot be denied,” the authority said. ”Further, there can be no credible argument that it should not be addressed, or even that action to address it should be further delayed.”

The bottleneck where the Eastern Freeway ends at Alexandra Parade limits its traffic flow by about 65,000 vehicles a day.

The freeway’s five lanes ”are capable of carrying up to 200,000 vehicles per day, but instead it is limited to around 135,000 vehicles because it is disconnected from [the] freeway network”.

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