Big Build responds to community concerns
by SANDI MILLER
4th October 2021
FOLLOWING OUR coverage last month regarding community groups’ concerns over Big Build projects, several arms of the Major Transport infrastructure Authority that are overseeing the projects responded collectively to the concerns raised in the Diary.
A spokesperson for Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) told the Diary that the projects that incorporate Victoria’s Big Build: North East Link, Hurstbridge Line Duplication, the Fitzsimons Lane Upgrade, Suburban Rail Loop, and the Metro Tunnel, will all help locals get where they need to go safer and sooner, and community engagement always happens before major works begin.
“Our project teams have heard feedback from tens of thousands of local people, which has guided the designs of our projects from the start and led to meaningful improvements including more walking and cycling paths, better accessibility, and significant planting and landscaping.”
“We’ll continue to keep locals updated and seek community feedback as we build the transport infrastructure the north-east needs and deserves.”
A statement regarding the Fitzsimons Lane project said there has been extensive engagement during planning and delivery of the Fitzsimons Lanes Upgrade project with over 1,000 pieces of feedback from community and stakeholder meetings, phone calls and written correspondence.
MITA had more than 560 conversations in person and over the phone with community members, more than 700 pieces of written feedback, meetings with the Eltham Community Action Group, and community information sessions.
“There have also been more than 9,000visitstoourprojectwebsite,”the statement said.
MITA’s statement said design changes in response to community feedback, announced in February 2020, have “already enabled the retention of approximately 150 trees and reduced the footprint of the Fitzsimons Lane and Main Road intersection by around 15 per cent while still delivering travel and safety improvements”.
The project changes included the removal of two traffic lanes from the Eltham approach and the removal of dedicated bus queue-jump lanes.
It said further options will continue to be considered as the project progresses.
“Through a series of careful design considerations, based on community feedback, the project will plant thousands more trees than the number that is needed to be removed to deliver this vital road improvement project,” the statement said.
MITA says an additional 6,000 indigenous trees will be planted under a new partnership between Major Road Projects Victoria and Rotary Club of Eltham, “meaning more than six new trees will be planted for every tree removed as part of the project”.
A network of new and upgraded walking and cycling paths will be delivered creating new active transport connections to the wider public transport network.
A major concern of the Eltham Community Action Group was the disregard of the alternative design for the intersection the group put forward during the consultation process.
Major Road Projects Victoria has said it has reviewed all design options, including one put forward by the Eltham Community Action Group to retain the roundabout at the intersection of Main Road and Fitzsimons Lane.
It has engaged multiple leading design consultants to assess this roundabout option, however it was found not to meet the safety and traffic performance requirements.
“The final design will make this critical link significantly better for all motorists, users of the smart bus routes, cyclists and pedestrians for decades to come, as well as improving emergency access and egress.
“The Fitzsimons Lane Upgrade project will continue to work with community to help create the new gateway into Eltham, ensuring the urban design captures the local sense of place,” the statement said.
Hurstbridge Line Duplication
The Hurstbridge Line Duplication received more than 1,000 pieces of feedback from the community from mid-2019 to August 2021, which helped shape the project designs
to have better accessibility and connections for passengers and locals.
Once this project is completed in 2022, around 2kms of track will have been duplicated between Greensborough and Montmorency and around 1.5kms between Diamond Creek and Wattle Glen.
“The investment will deliver two modern stations and will enable more trains, more often, making commuting safer and easier.
“The community’s local knowledge, combined with engineering and urban planning expertise, will ensure we understand local issues and get the best outcomes,” the MITA statement said.
Part of recent community consultation has been around the upgrades to the Eltham train substation where a Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) is being constructed to protect the train substation from high voltage spikes.
The site upgrade will make it ready for bushfire protection technology, which is being installed on the electricity network.
The community was invited to have their say on the final colour and finish of the retaining wall.
A 50-vehicle carpark is to be built in Wattle Glen, there has been a portal established for feedback on that project at: engage.vic.gov.au/ car-park-upgrades-drouin-nng-ufg-and-yarraman/wattle-glen-station- car-park-planning-approvals- consultation.
Locals can stay up-to-date on further opportunities to have their say on Big Build projects, by visiting bigbuild.vic.gov.au/community.
North East Link
A statement from MITA regarding North East Link said it started talking to the community early and undertook a comprehensive Environment Effects Statement(EES) process.
“More than 15,000 pieces of community feedback over five years has helped to shape the project,” the statement said.
“More than 10,000 people have visited North East Link information sessions and our Watsonia Community Hub, and we’ve had thousands of conversations with local people and businesses.
“Our community liaison and business liaison groups include locals from a range of backgrounds including traders, local residents, sports clubs and schools.
“Locals will continue to help shape the plans for North East Link — we’re working with our preferred bidder to finalise the design for the project, ready to share details with the community and seek their input,” the statement continued.
MITA says a wide range of approaches and tools have been used to encourage public involvement in Big Build projects.
This has included public hearings as part of an EES process, face-to-face engagement, ongoing meetings with councils, online surveys, creation of Community Liaison Groups and Business Liaison Groups, workshops and community information sessions.
“Communities are at the heart of Victoria’s Big Build — we’re working with locals every step of the way as we plan, design and build the major transport projects that will transform travel in the north-east.”