The government of Victoria has announced the route for the long-awaited North East Link road project. This will complete a ring-road around Melbourne, connecting the suburbs in the east from Nunawading, to Greensborough in the north. The route spans 26 km. It has been selected from a shortlist of four routes compiled in August, following the government’s announcement that it was planning to build the road in December, as reported on this platform.
The project will involve adding new lanes to the existing Eastern Freeway from Nunawading to Bulleen – up to seven in areas most prone to congestion; the construction of a 5km tunnel connecting Bulleen to Lower Plenty Road and a new road running alongside Greensborough Highway to the M80, which will also be widened. The development of the Eastern Freeway will include the launch of a new Doncaster Busway system – dedicated express bus lanes will run from Doncaster to Melbourne. Existing walking and cycling trails along the route will be upgraded, included the popular Yarra Trail, and new ones added.
The government intend to complete a detailed design and a business case in 2018. The business case will include final cost estimates, which are to be released ahead of the 2018-19 state budget. Procurement and planning approval processes will begin in 2018, though contracts will not be signed before the general election in November. It is hoped that major construction will commence in 2020.
As reported on InfraPPP, when the Victorian government announced its plans to build the North East Link in December 2016, the total project investment was projected as AU$10 billion (US$7.49 billion). This was to be funded by a mixture of government contributions and tolls. The current cost estimate of this project is AU$16.5 billion (US$12.5 billion). This makes the North East Link the single biggest transport infrastructure investment in the history of Victoria. The government are exploring potential funding options to meet this increased cost.
Premier Daniel Andrews suggested that the government may sell its share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to the Federal Government, although could not confirm that the profit would go to this project. Andrews also called for a federal contribution, citing unfair distribution of the federal infrastructure budget between states. Furthermore, the government confirmed that they will not introduce tolls to the Eastern Freeway, although users of the new road connecting the Freeway to Greensborough will be charged.
The Victorian government claims that the link will cut travel times between Melbourne’s north and south by up to 30 minutes in each direction, and will also save time for people travelling to Melbourne Airport from the south and east. Local roads in the north eastern suburbs will benefit, with the link supposedly taking up to 15,000 trucks and 9,000 cars off the streets. The expansion of the Eastern Freeway will eliminate some of eastern Melbourne’s worst bottlenecks. In its entirety, the project is expected to create around 10,000 jobs in Victoria.