VicRoads recently closed down Hoddle Street for a week to work on streamlining the corridor. The project is expected to continue for the rest of 2018.
"Streamlining" in this case is a euphemism for increasing the capacity of Hoddle Street for higher volumes of vehicle traffic every day. Whilst dedicated bus lanes are part of the project the Andrews government intends that the overwhelming future growth in traffic movements will be passenger cars.
The project was previously under serious consideration by the Brumby Labor government which lost office in 2010. It was sidelined by the incoming Baillieu government which, at least initially, sensibly "parked" the project with a view to, at last, building a rail line to Doncaster Hill instead. That did not materialise in the wake of an inadequate analysis that contemplated a rail line from Melbourne CBD, not to the major passenger destination of Doncaster Hill, but to the "Park and Ride" at the intersection of the Eastern Freeway and Doncaster Road in Doncaster.
The fact is that increasing road capacity at the expense of public transport, as the Hoddle Street streamlining project does, is far less space efficient than increased public transport capacity. One fully loaded train carries about as many people as one freeway lane occupied by passenger vehicles in a whole hour. The successor Napthine government's favourite, if critically flawed infrastructure project, the proposed East West Link, would have sacrificed significant open space, including much of the priceless parkland of Royal Park for a "spaghetti junction" with the Tullamarine Freeway in Parkville.
Importantly, it would have also absorbed the median strip on the Eastern Freeway between Hoddle Street and Bulleen Road for additional vehicle lanes. As this space has for years been earmarked for a rail line to Doncaster it would have dealt a severe, if not terminal, blow to the promise of an acceptable public transport service for residents of Melbourne's north eastern suburbs who have no tram or train services.
As we head into this 2018 election year we have a deep obligation to put a stop to this freeway madness and the serial sidelining of public transport by the major parties. There is no sign yet, though, that they have heard the message. If the status quo were to be maintained we also face the future threat of further "streamlining" of Punt Road to the south of the current Hoddle Street project. Existing residential properties in South Yarra would be the victims of that exercise, if it were to see the light of day.
In addition to resurrecting the discredited East West Link project, the coalition also wishes to build the so-called North East Link from Greensborough to the Eastern Freeway. The Labor government, if re-elected, would also build the North East Link as well as the West Gate Tunnel, a cosy deal which it hatched with toll road operator Transurban but did not declare in their election campaigning in 2014. The West Gate Tunnel is proposed instead of the adequate public transport desperately needed by western suburbs residents who the Andrews government claims to serve.
As part of the North East Link project the Victorian government proposes to add seven extra lanes to the Eastern Freeway between Bulleen Road and Springvale Road. The North East Link Authority, the government body established by the Andrews government to "spin" the project to the public has so far been mum on how this is to work. However, one thing is certain: Substantial public parkland would be lost, including much of the Koonung Creek Reserve. This Reserve, even in its current condition is a remnant of the extensive open space in the valley that was lost to the Eastern Freeway when it was opened in 1977 and then progressively extended eastward. Now they want more of it. The Reserve would be reduced to a "buffer zone" between the bloated Eastern Freeway and ever closer residential areas along the Eastern Freeway from Bulleen to Nunawading.
For its part, the West Gate Tunnel would feed more motor car traffic from the western suburbs into the inner suburbs and the Melbourne CBD in much the same way as the government's Hoddle Street "streamlining" project and the East West Link, if it were to materialise, will feed more traffic into inner suburbs and the CBD from the north and the east.
All in all the Victorian government seems set on filling up Melbourne CBD with cars every day in the same manner as the trainless Melbourne Airport.