Community United! Our Demands for the Western Distributor

How the Western Distributor project must be improved to make our community cleaner, safer and more liveable.

Victoria’s Labor Government has announced it plans to go ahead with the Western Distributor project. This new road tollway will expand the West Gate Freeway from eight to 12 lanes. From the freeway it will build a tunnel under Yarraville, a river crossing over the Maribyrnong, and an elevated road along Footscray Road to the port and to City Link.

The Government says it will consult the community on the Western Distributor project proposal.  We, as a community, are united in our desire for cleaner, safer and more liveable neighbourhoods. To achieve this vision, these are our demands of the Western Distributor proposal:

1.       Prioritise our children’s health. Reduce asthma rates by committing to a 24 hour curfew for container trucks on all local streets when the road is built and extending curfews while the road is being built.

Child hospitalisations for asthma in the inner west are double the rate in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne thanks to diesel truck traffic. It also puts our health, wellbeing and safety at risk due to noise, road accident risks, and loss of amenity.

The Government has proposed having 24 hour curfews on Francis St and Somerville Rd alone.  We will not accept this. This will only shift the burden from Yarraville to Seddon, and will continue to allow trucks to do a rat run along Geelong Rd, Buckley Street and Moore Street, which are also highly residential areas.

The Government must commit to 24 truck curfews (except for trucks with a local destination) on Buckley Street, Moore Street and Williamstown Rd, as well as Francis Street and Somerville Rd, and continue the 24 hour curfew on Hyde Street.

To reduce the impact of trucks over the next six years while the project is built, the Government must also implement new curfews during school pick up and drop off times on Francis Street, and full overnight and weekend curfews on Buckley Street, Moore Street and Williamstown Rd. Similar curfews on Somerville Rd have been highly successful.

2.       Don’t build on top of our precious parklands and green spaces, which are already few and far between in the inner west. Build the ‘Westgate’ off-ramp design to protect the Stoney Creek Reserve.

The government must protect Stony Creek Reserve and the amenity of local homes by adopting the West Gate southern tunnel portal design. The government’s current preferred Hyde Street design would build eight lanes of fly-over off-ramps over Stony Creek Reserve and build the tunnel entrance less than 100 meters from homes in Yarraville. This would create an unacceptable impact on the local area.

The Government prefers the Hyde Street design as it largely avoids impacts on traffic on the West Gate Freeway during the construction. However, construction impacts are an inevitable part of any project and efforts to avoid these very short term negative impacts should not compromise the design of the project, including having a design that minimises the loss of green space and limits impacts on local residents over the long term.

The West Gate design would build the tunnel entrance within the West Gate Freeway road verge, just before Williamstown Rd. This design still enables more discrete single lane ramps to Hyde Street for placard loads and redundancy in case of an accident on the West Gate Bridge. This off ramp would run alongside the West Gate freeway in the shadow of the freeway, rather than across the reserve.

Beyond Stony Creek Reserve, there are a multitude of other green spaces that could be seriously damaged by the Western Distributor. The Maribyrnong River, Yarraville Gardens, Hyde Reserve, Moonee Ponds Creek, Kororoit Creek, Donald McLean Reserve and the West Gate Golf Course, are all at risk.

Our green space is precious. There are less green spaces in the west than in other parts of Melbourne. As our population grows and our suburbs increase in density, it is all the more important to protect what little green space we have for the health and well-being of our community.

Questions remain about the final route design of the road, including the placing of the tunnel portals due to road gradient requirements and soil suitability.  The community needs a guarantee that our beloved Yarraville Gardens will not be impacted either by construction or the final road placement, and that other green spaces will have minimal impacts.

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.

The removal of spoil from the tunnel drilling entrance could create tens of thousands of truck movements. Some of this spoil will have been contaminated with toxic materials. It is important that the impact of the construction is minimised on local residents.

All trucks removing spoil from the tunnel drilling entrance on Whitehall Rd, and all other trucks where practicable, must be strictly restricted to using Whitehall Rd, Footscray Rd, Dynon Rd and the freeway network.

To reduce the impact of trucks over the next six years while the project is built, the Victorian Government must also implement new curfews during school pick up and drop off times on Francis Street, and full weekend and overnight curfews on Buckley Street, Moore Street and Williamstown Road.

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.

While the Western Distributor is some six years from completion, the Port Rail shuttle can be built in just two years and could reduce the number of trucks on local streets by 3500 every day by creating a proper rail connection to the Port of Melbourne.

This project will cost just $58 million to complete, is already funded by the Victorian and Federal Government and is shovel-ready. Once finished, containers arriving by boat could be transferred directly onto rail and transported to inland ports in the South-East, North, and South-Western suburbs of Melbourne. This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our freight industry and significantly increase the capacity of the Port of Melbourne, reducing the need to construct a second Port for many decades to come.

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.

The people of the west have suffered long enough from dangerously poor air quality; it’s time to fix this for good. The government needs to ensure health and amenity benefits of the project by implementing best practice pollution filtering and noise reduction technology on the Western Distributor tunnel ventilation towers and vents. Ventilation towers can have variable impacts depending on the technology used and the design, so it must be nothing but the best.

They must also undertake an analysis of the particulate matter pollution impacts before it goes ahead. Generalised assertions of benefits are not good enough. We need a detailed assessment and a pollution dispersion modelling study to analyse how the new road arrangements and the tunnel ventilation systems are likely to impact on particulate matter pollution in the area. 

This must also take into account future projections in growth of freight movements and should happen as part of the Environment Effects Statement. This will enable us to understand any new particulate matter hotspots and to modify the project if necessary.

Time and time again we have seen benefits promised and not delivered with limited accountability due to very few requirements for governments to assess impacts after a project is complete. The Government must commit to ending this status quo by properly monitoring air quality, noise and traffic after the road is constructed, and to addressing any problems that arise.

The air and noise monitoring should occur in residential areas alongside the widened Westgate Freeway, new elevated roads and in areas surrounding the ventilation stacks and tunnel openings. Findings of this monitoring must be made public in real time online. The traffic monitoring should occur on local streets with a focus on enforcement of truck curfews.

A key requirement of this project must be that it improves the air quality in the Maribyrnong area and reduces asthma rates amongst children.

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.

The government needs to limit the impact of the project by applying extensive best practice noise protections and treatments along new and expanded roads.

Too often the noise impacts on local residents of new transport projects are ignored or undervalued. We must see best practice measures planned into the project from the start and monitored and abated during construction.

Then after the project is complete, the noise levels must also be monitored to ensure they are within reasonable limits and to assess whether further noise treatments are required. Noise monitoring must occur in areas surrounding the ventilation towers, elevated freeways and freeway expansions.

7.       Protect the community and construction workers by using world’s best practice management of toxic contaminants on construction sites.

A range of toxic wastes have been identified on the construction sites of the Western Distributor Protect. These include asbestos, PCBs, cyanide, VOCs, TPHs, PAHs, ammonia, petroleum hydrocarbons, metals and more. We want reassurance that these contaminants will be properly managed to ensure the community’s and worker’s safety.

The most worrying contamination is intractable PFCs, which are suspected on the former ESSO terminal, the Mobil terminal and other industrial properties. This is waste that is highly toxic and cannot be disposed of in landfill.  We want answers as to what exactly will happen to this toxic waste and how the community and workers will be protected from exposure.

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.

The Government is promoting completion of the Federation Bike Trail as a benefit of this project. The reality is that the Federation Bike Trail can be completed now, with or without the Western Distributor.

It would cost a few million dollars to complete the missing link between Fogarty Ave and Hyde Street. This route runs independent of the Western Distributor proposed design, so there is no need for us to wait to get this done.

At the election, Labor committed to a $100 million bike safety infrastructure fund, but it is yet to deliver one single bike safety project. It time to deliver on this promise, starting with the Federation Trail.