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 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 in August 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.

Corridor B and C were projected to travel through Warrandyte to connect to EastLink at Ringwood, and Corridor D was discussed as traversing 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 the other options “don’t stack up”, saying 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 arterials like Rosanna Road.

The proposal includes several companion projects, including up to seven extra lanes on the Eastern Freeway and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along the Eastern Freeway from the Doncaster Park and Ride to Victoria Park.

The BRT project will also provide more parking for commuters, and Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan says there will also be an opportunity to build a future Park and Ride in Bulleen.

“Buses will no longer be held up weaving on and off ramps, the Doncaster Busway will create a true express ride down the middle of the Eastern Freeway,” Minister Allan said.

With autonomous buses currently being trialled in routes around LaTrobe University, there is speculation that the BRT would make use of the electric powered, driverless buses in the future.

Manningham Councillor Paul McLeish says, “these enhancements to the freeway will be of some benefit to our community” noting that Manningham is “the most car bound municipality in Melbourne” due to the lack of rail services across the municipality.

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 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 said 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.

With a projected budget of $16.5 Billion, the Premier says this project will be the “single biggest transport infrastructure investment in Victorian history”. Manningham Mayor, Andrew Conlon said in a statement that Council has a number of concerns with Option A they will be seeking assurance on.

Council had previously resolved not to support Option A. Manningham Council spent $150,000 for a survey sent out to Manningham residents. 20% of residents indicated their preferred route — with support for the Bulleen Road route getting 35% of the share.

Corridors B and C each polled 27% support with only 7% supporting Corridor D. Councillor Sophie Galbally said at a recent council meeting she felt the survey results were an indication of preference for “anywhere but in my backyard”.

Councillor McLeish said while the council gave their support for the road in the September council meeting, the announced route will have significant impact on our community.

“There are many concerns we have for the liveability and safety of our community for the route that has now been announced, and I am certain that we as a council will work together to protect as best we can the desires and aspiration of the residents who are living along the alignment,” he said at the council meeting.

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.

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.

Neighbouring Banyule are understandably unhappy with the announcement as they had been advocating for Corridor C.

Banyule Mayor, Cr Mark Di Pasquale told the Diary: “Banyule Council’s position has been ‘Option C’ and was affirmed following a recent survey of our community.

“It is the best option to compliment Melbourne’s entire Transport Network Plan.” Although Cr Di Pasquale said that he believed NELA’s modelling was flawed.

“It is claimed that 75% of traffic movement will go south and then to the east, Ringwood way, and only 25% will travel south and then to the west, into the City. “Of this west bound traffic heading into the city only 4% will get there, it is claimed.

“I’ve grown up all my life in this area of town and many more people go into the city than that. “The idea of this road is overkill. “We may need a North East Link but a 10 lane road is too much,” he said.

The Banyule Mayor said NELA was assigned the task to investigate the best option for the completion of the Ring Road.

“What they’ve delivered is the ‘New Ding Road’ — A big ring road that travels around Melbourne and then has a ‘ding’ in it when you get to the North East.

He said that Corridor A also fails the “Grandkids test”.

“If my grandkids would think this road is a good idea then it would pass, but unfortunately it fails dismally; in 20 years’ time, we will be looking back saying ‘we should have built Option C’,” he said.

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.”

Despite Manningham and Banyule’s objections 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 North East 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.

Following the announcement Ms Galbally held a community rally at Stintons Reserve, Park Orchards, which would have been in the direct path of both Options B and C.

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