The flaws of the proposed east-west road are well-known, but let’s briefly re-cap.
- Most traffic from the Eastern Freeway is headed for the city, not cross-town.
- It wouldn’t be a backup for the M1 (Westgate/Citylink), because it would have its own traffic, and for most road users, it’s too far north.
- It wouldn’t prevent traffic congestion because just like every other motorway before it, it would generate more traffic.
- It wouldn’t be a “second river crossing” — there are already four road crossings to the west in the proposed area, and railways that together have more capacity than all the roads.
- It’s so ridiculously expensive that it couldn’t be built without some private money. Private investors would want city exits, ensuring it would help clog inner-city streets.
- It was barely mentioned before the last election. In fact, while Terry Mulder said they supported the motorway “in principle”, he also specifically that: “we are not going to this election with a plan” (to build it). And yet now, somehow, it’s the government’s top infrastructure priority.
- The Benefit/Cost Ratio is well under 1.0 — the Eddington study measured it as 0.45.
- It makes little sense in a 21st century city, with people driving less, and when most people want to see public transport prioritised ahead of roads — this new study says 53% of Australians want priority on public transport, 26% on roads.
The impact on the inner-north
Less thought about is the impact such a road would have on the inner-north of Melbourne.
Yeah it’s not perfect. The traffic’s too light, and the bridge is too high relative to the cross-street. And the interchange is too small.
In real life, if the road was put underground, the exits in particular would probably need to be bigger, to prevent traffic banking up back into the tunnel. This would result in mass demolition, as freeway interchanges have a huge footprint.
You’d hope an east-west interchange might be more compact, and perhaps the entrances could be shorter, since if in a tunnel it’d have a top speed of 80, not 100, so less ramp length needed to allow traffic to get up to speed. But the exits would still be a problem.
It’s unclear if the same effect would be seen in the inner-west, but the most likely exits are in the ports area, so perhaps they’d have less of an impact. (The Footscray Road interchange with Citylink, with entrances and exits only to/from the south, is a similar magnitude in size to what you see above.)
The most “compact” of motorway interchanges I could find in Melbourne is off the M1 eastbound onto Church Street in Richmond/Cremorne. It still takes a fair bit of land, and only caters for one direction. And as noted above, the off-ramp would need to be longer to avoid queues in the tunnel. (It looks like it used to have a loop exit to Church Street southbound, but I’m guessing this is no longer used?)
Lots of space for motorway interchanges is inevitable… it’s just a part of motor vehicles being such a space-inefficient way of moving people around.
And that in turn will have impacts whenever a motorway (even a tunnel) is ploughed through a built-up area.
What will Tuesday’s state budget hold? And what will be the result?
The past pattern is clear:
If we want more traffic, providing more roads is the way to do it.
If we want people to travel more sustainably, by walking, bicycle or PT, provide more of those options.