A unique construction method involving two large remotely controlled cranes will be used for major widening works to the EJ Whitten Bridge in Victoria.

The assembly of the 13m tall gantry cranes has begun and marks the start of significant works to widen the bridge from three to five lanes in each direction, improving safety and slashing travel times.

The $300 million upgrade, working 50m above the ground, requires special gantry cranes in order to widen the bridge in the centre by connecting the two bridges together.

The construction method allows all lanes on the bridges to remain open during peak times, minimising disruption to the 165,000 motorists who travel along the M80 Ring Road every day.

The cranes will move from the Keilor Park Drive end to install 20 bridge beams weighing up to 1,700 tonnes and lay a new bridge deck all the way along to the Sunshine Avenue end.

The cranes will be operated remotely, creating a safer environment for workers and drivers on the bridge by giving the operator greater visibility at all times.

The M80 Ring Road will be widened from two to four lanes at Sunshine Avenue, and from three to five lanes over the EJ Whitten Bridge, right through to the Calder Freeway.

Victorian Minister for Roads, Luke Donnellan, said, “We’re putting people first by creating 1350 jobs and keeping all lanes on the EJ Whitten Bridge open while works are underway to upgrade this iconic piece of infrastructure.

“The Sunshine Avenue to Calder Freeway upgrade will remove two congested bottlenecks, slash peak hour travel times by up to 15 minutes, and provide drivers with a smoother, safer and more reliable journey.”

As part of the upgrade, permanent public safety barriers will be installed and the shared user path upgraded, improving safety for local cyclists, pedestrians and families.

The Commonwealth and Victorian governments are each contributing $150 million towards the $300 million upgrade. The project is expected to be completed by late 2018.

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