East-west link: Tollway threatens peaceful twilight years

The Age: East-west link: Tollway threatens peaceful twilight years. January 10, 2014. Clay Lucas and Jason Walls

Fiery scenes at East-West protest

After violent scenes on Thursday, protesters return to North Melbourne to rally against the city’s controversial East-West tunnel. Nine News.

Jia Qi Niu’s window at his Parkville home for the elderly looks out onto wetlands, where the 95-year-old likes to walk.

Soon, though, the retired microbiologist from Hangzhou could be looking out onto a five-storey freeway off-ramp, under the Napthine government’s plan for the east-west link.

The proposed tollway will link the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill to CityLink – which itself sits just eight metres from the Elderly Chinese Home – via off and on ramps in Parkville.

Case study on the East West Link project.A resident at the Elderly Chinese Home in Parkville Mr Jia Qi Niu.

Jia Qi Niu in his room at the Elderly Chinese Home. Photo: Eddie Jim

”My room is facing onto where it will go,” said Mr Niu. ”I am worried about the health effects.”

The board that runs the Elderly Chinese Home is worried too, and is pressing the government to relocate it out of the path of the $6-8 billion tunnel, whose construction is due to start in October.

The Elderly Chinese Home sits nearly below the well-known ”cheese sticks” on CityLink as it approaches Flemington Road.

Case study on the East West Link project.A resident at the Elderly Chinese Home in Parkville Mr Jia Qi Niu with their manager Sandy Liew.
Mr Niu with home manager Sandy Lieu in the wetlands. Photo: Eddie Jim
The home is also three doors from the recently completed Evo apartments, which the government is buying from off-the-plan purchasers because of the impacts of the new road.

Relocating the elderly home will cost around $20 million, according to chairman Albert Lee. He is seeking a meeting with Premier Denis Napthine about it. The home, which has met three times with the government’s Linking Melbourne Authority, recently completed a $3.5 million extension.

Mr Lee says the home and its residents don’t want to move, but if the new tollway is built the board will have little choice as families won’t want their relatives living next to two freeways and major off ramps. The east-west link will run just 28 metres from the home, with an off-ramp rising to 18 metres as it passes, overshadowing the home’s lounge and sunroom.

Elderly Chinese Home, which will be effected by the East -West Link, in Manningham st Parkville on Sunday 5 January 2014.
The home’s main entrance. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
Construction in this part of Parkville could begin in mid-2015 although this could change, depending on the winning tender.

Deputy Opposition Leader James Merlino said the concerns of the Chinese home’s board were further proof the east-west link had been poorly thought through. ”This dud tunnel should be taken to the next election so all Victorians can decide if it goes ahead.”

The government wants contracts to build the road signed in September, just weeks before November’s state election.

East West Tunnel link protest in Charlotte st Collingwood.
Police removing protesters from the picket line on Alexander parade.
Protesters clashing with police in Collingwood on Thursday. Photo: Justin McManus

Roads Minister Terry Mulder said much of the east-west link was in a tunnel despite the great extra cost, in order to minimise impacts on residents.

He said the government, through its transport authority, was working with affected landowners such as the Elderly Chinese Home ”to better understand each circumstance”.

Because hearings into the project’s impact had not begun, and bids from consortiums wanting to build the project had not been submitted, the government could not yet make a decision on relocating the home, Mr Mulder said.

Meanwhile, in Collingwood, several people were injured when about 100 protesters against the east-west tunnel project clashed with police on Thursday.

With Alfred Chan