Green Wedge bypassed as North East Link heads for Bulleen

by SANDI MILLER
24th November 2017

In what looks like the start of a year-long election campaign, the Premier, Daniel Andrews announced today that Labor would be building Corridor A of the North East Link if they are returned to power following next November’s State election.

The controversial North East Link went to public consultation with four routes, Corridor A, by far the most direct route, is planned to connect the Ring Road from Greensborough, down through Bulleen to connect to an upgraded Eastern Freeway near the Bulleen Road interchange.

Corridors B and C were projected to travel through Warrandyte to connect to EastLink at Ringwood, and Corridor D was mooted to traverse some 40 kilometres through Kangaroo Ground, Lilydale and Croydon to connect to Eastlink —  these corridors have now been removed from the table.

The premier told ABC Radio this morning that the other options “don’t stack up”, saying that the chosen route will see congestion on local roads in the north eastern suburbs slashed, with up to 15,000 trucks taken off local streets a day, and more than 9,000 vehicles taken off congested arteries like Rosanna Road.

With a projected budget of $16.5 Billion, the Premier says this project will be the “single biggest transport infrastructure investment in Victorian history”.

Detailed planning on the selected route will progress over the next 12 months and the project will go out to tender in 2019, following the November 2018 election.

CEO of the North East Link Authority, Duncan Elliot said in a video statement that the upgrade to the Eastern Freeway as part of the project will add up to seven lanes in some areas of the freeway, and that the Eastern will remain toll free.

“Our traffic data tells us this is by far the best solution for dealing with congestion and getting trucks off local roads”

“People often asks us, why not go out further, through areas like Eltham and Warrandyte, but the answer to that is simple, we are building a ring road, but we are taking a more direct route and building it where people live, work and travel,” he said.

Local Member for Warrandyte, Ryan Smith told the Diary: “While this is a good outcome for the sensitive environment of Warrandyte, it is now clear that the suspicion, uncertainty and angst that the Andrews Government put our community through was completely unnecessary”.

Mr Smith said that the community meeting held at the initial announcement of the four options “made it abundantly clear that they believed Option A was a pre-determined outcome”.

“Their concerns have been ignored by the Andrews Government and their predictions have been proven correct, he said.

Mr Smith’s says that the Liberal party support the North East Link, however “the East West Link needs to be completed first as it will carry the added vehicles that a North East Link will direct to it”.

“Planning for the North East Link should be supported by proper planning that addresses the challenges of the project, and by genuine consultation with those affected, Mr Smith said.

Manningham Mayor, Andrew Conlon said in a statement that Council has a number of concerns with Option A that they will be seeking assurance on.

Council has previously resolved not to support Option A.

However, the survey sent out to Manningham residents showed support for the Bulleen Road route – with 35% of respondents supporting Corridor A with Corridors B and C both polling 27% support with only 7% supporting Corridor D.

Manningham will be using the data collected from the survey to inform their future submissions to the North East Link Authority and to advocate on behalf of its residents.

The Manningham Mayor said that once detailed designs for Option A become available, “we will be actively advocating on behalf of our community on the issues they’ve highlighted to us.”

“We will be looking at how to minimise project impacts and if any opportunities exist that could deliver benefits to our residents,” he said.

“We also want confirmation that the Eastern Freeway will not be a toll road and that its median strip will be preserved for future transport options including Bus Rapid Transport and Doncaster Rail,” he said.

Nillumbik Mayor Peter Clarke said he was pleased the State Government had settled on Corridor A; however, he has called for details to be released as a matter of urgency on tolling, ways of reducing rat running in residential areas and ancillary projects.

“Council has lobbied hard for this option as we believe it will deliver the best environmental, quality of life and traffic outcomes for the people of Nillumbik and the wider community,”

Narelle Campbell from the community action group Rural Link #buildthelinkbutdontsplitthewedge, who have been vocal opponents of Corridor D, told the Diary they have been “actively participating in the route options identification, analysis and assessment… to ensure NELA and government could clearly understand why the rural Nillumbik green wedge was inappropriate for North East Link”.

“As it turns out, government understands and agrees,” she continued, “North East Link options identification and selection has always been about selecting the least-worst option, and in our view this has occurred.”

The announcement that Corridor A is preferred comes is of little surprise to Doug Seymour from the Warrandyte Community Association (WCA), who has actively followed the issue since the consultation process began.

“Project cost has always been a primary concern of Government, and Corridor A would be the least expensive to build — this does not mean the Corridor A will be cheap, just billions of dollars cheaper than the alternatives,“ Mr Seymour said.

“No solution is perfect and all would involve considerable dislocation — although Warrandyte seems to have avoided direct impact from this project we realise our local traffic conditions are becoming more congested and this community will therefore need to continue to be active in any and all discussions on road network upgrades,” he said.

Despite Manningham’s objection to Corridor A, Mullum Mullum ward councillor, Sophie Galbally is pleased with the outcome for the ward, although she told the Diary Manningham was always going to feel an impact from the NE link, considering all the likely options were to come through the City.

“On the other hand there is a sigh of relief that this time the Green Wedge will be saved from the possibility of destruction by a freeway,” she continued.

As a private citizen, Ms Galbally is organising a community meeting/protest at Stintons Reserve, Park Orchards on Sunday November 26 between 11am and 1pm “with a photo of the supporters who want to ensure that The Urban Boundary remains and is not subjected to any future threats of destruction”.

“There is a sense of relief in Mullum Mullum Ward but until the NE Link Option A is signed sealed and delivered we should not be complacent,” she said.