What’s the issue?
We all want cleaner air, more green space, fewer cars and trucks on our streets, and healthier neighbourhoods for our children to grow up in.
In the western suburbs of Melbourne, this vision has been out of reach for many years thanks to a shortage of green space, our industrial legacy and most importantly, the 21,000 container trucks that travel through inner west streets each day.
In response to the truck problem and road congestion in general, Victoria’s Labor Government has announced it will build the $5.5 billion Western Distributor project.
This new tollway will expand the West Gate Freeway from 8 to 12 lanes and include a tunnel under Yarraville, a river crossing over the Maribyrnong River, and an elevated road along Footscray Road to the port and City Link.
While this sounds like it could improve livability in the west by taking trucks and traffic off local streets, there are huge problems:
- There isn’t any commitment from Dan Andrews that trucks will be prohibited from all local and residential streets. There will be a toll of up to $13.50 each way for trucks to use the Western Distributor, so a truck ban on local and residential streets is the only way to ensure they will actually use the toll road rather than avoid the tolls by rat running through residential neighbourhoods instead.
- The government’s preferred design will impact on some of the west’s most precious parklands, including Stony Creek Reserve, Donald McLean Reserve, and potentially Yarraville Gardens, as well as the Moonee Ponds Creek in North Melbourne.
- The new road will just encourage more people to drive. This will lead to further pollution and traffic in and around Melbourne’s already congested inner city, where the freeway ends.
- The Andrews Government has side-lined the Port-Rail Shuttle project, which would take 3,500 trucks off our roads every day. This rail connection to the port would significantly reduce truck traffic and pollution.
- The government has admitted that the toll road will be at capacity by 2031, meaning that this massively expensive $5.5 billion project will only provide travel time benefits for nine years once it is constructed.
What are the Greens doing about it?
The Greens have been holding the Labor Government to account on this project by demanding transparency and calling for the Andrews government to put needs of the community first.
You can read Colleen Hartland’s speeches in parliament, where she has questioned the Minister for Roads and Road Safety over the matter. We are challenging the Government at VCAT to allow Freedom of Information access to more detailed information about the project modelling and how much Transurban stands to profit from this new tollway.
The Greens have also joined with local community groups in creating a list of demands, to make it perfectly clear to the Labor government that the health, safety and liveability of our neighbourhood must be the number one priority if this project goes ahead:
1. Prioritise our children’s health. Reduce asthma rates by committing to a 24 hour curfew for container trucks on all local streets in the inner west when the road is built, and extending curfews while the road is under construction.
2. Don’t build on top of our precious parklands and green spaces. They are already few and far between in the inner west. Build the “Long Tunnel Option” to protect the Stony Creek Reserve. August 2016 Update: the Government has now agreed to having the long tunnel as it's reference design.
3. Stop tens of thousands of construction trucks carrying equipment, tunnelling soil and toxic materials from taking over our local streets and impacting residents during the years of construction. Restrict construction trucks to the freeways, Whitehall St and Footscray Rd.
4. Build the Port Rail Shuttle immediately. This would take 3,500 trucks off our local streets every day, and reduce pollution from our freight industry.
5. Improve air quality across the inner west for the long term by thoroughly assessing and minimising air pollution impacts before and after the construction, and using the best pollution filtering technology in the tunnel ventilation system.
6. Protect local residents from noise pollution by planning best practice noise protection measures right from the start of the project and monitoring and abating noise during construction and after it is built.
7. Protect the community and construction workers by using world’s best practice management of toxic contaminants on construction sites.
8. Complete the Federation Bike Trail now! Dan Andrews is promoting the completion of this bike track as a benefit of the project, but it can be done independently of the Western Distributor construction right away. (August 2016 Update: the Government announced it will complete the bike trail link!)
What can I do to help?
The easiest way you can help is to sign the petition to tell the Premier that the community needs to come first! When you sign the petition we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop when there are any developments on this issue.
You can also write an email to the Minister for Roads, Luke Donnellan, and tell him what you think of the proposal. Sending a personalised email to the Minister is a really effective way to let the government know that the community cannot be ignored on this issue.
One of the most important things you can do is help us spread the word about what the Western Distributor could mean for our neighbourhood! So have a conversation with your friends, your family, your neighbours, and share the petition on Facebook!
Finally, make sure you stay in the loop on the Western Distributor and how it will impact your neighbourhood! Sign up here to get email updates.
In the media
Truck street homes in Yarraville unwanted (17 Aug 2016, Star Weekly)
Yarraville residents block busy intersection over truck concerns (11 Aug 2016, ABC)
Melbourne City Council set to oppose $5.5 billion Western Distributor toll road (14 Jul 2016, The Age)
Western Distributor: longer tunnel chosen for second river crossing project (10 Jul 2016, The Age)
Western Distributor design features long tunnel (10 Jul 2016, Star Weekly)
We need some transparency on Transurban and Western Distributor project (24 May 2016, Herald Sun)
Western Distributor explained (14 April 2016, The Age)
How Dan Andrews and Transurban are stuffing up Melbourne's inner west (25 Jan 2016, The Age)
'Holes' in Western Distributor business case (19 Jan 2016, Star Weekly)
Stop playing and start planning for Victoria (11 Jan 2016, The Age)
Transurban's tollway plan could choke the city with extra cars (7 Jan 2016, The Age)
Timing of Western Distributor environmental study raises concerns as final route not yet set (5 Jan 2016, ABC News)
Andrews Government keeps Western Distributor environmental report secret (5 Jan 2016, Herald Sun)