Infrastructure Australia has given the Victorian Government’s $15.8 billion North East Link proposal the green light, listing it as a High Priority on its Infrastructure Priority List.
The project involves construction of a new freeway-standard 11km roadway in Melbourne to link the M3 Eastern Freeway and M80 Ring Road between Doncaster and Greensborough, upgrades to sections of the M80 and M3 Eastern Freeway, and an additional 10.6km of bus lanes between Doncaster and the city.
By better connecting Melbourne’s south east and the north, the project aims to draw traffic away from arterial roads and reduce pressure on the M1 Monash Freeway.
Infrastructure Australia Acting Chief Executive, Anna Chau, said the project could deliver significant travel time savings for drivers and passengers in a growing part of Melbourne, shaving up to 30 minutes off trips between the M80 and M3 Eastern Freeway.
“Melbourne’s north-east is home to around one-fifth of the city’s population and will accommodate a large part of the city’s population growth in the next 30 years,” Ms Chau said.
“Currently, there are very few freeway options for travelling between Melbourne’s north and south-east, meaning drivers must pass through Melbourne’s inner city. These roads are regularly congested with commuter traffic and freight traffic from the Port of Melbourne.
“Once delivered, the freeway will provide faster and more reliable trips to help people get to work and commercial districts, as well as improving quality of life for residents in these suburbs by moving traffic from arterial and local roads onto the new freeway.
“Congestion in a growing city like Melbourne has a significant economic impact. The 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit found that delays on Melbourne’s urban transport network cost the economy $3 billion per year and that, without additional capacity, this would grow to around $9 billion by 2031.
“Infrastructure Australia considers this congestion problem to be nationally significant. Without action, the network will become increasingly strained, particularly with the future expansion of major industrial precincts in the north and south east.”
The project also incorporates dedicated, end-to-end intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to enable North East Link to operate as a managed motorway and integrate with connecting freeways and arterial roads.
“Infrastructure Australia supports investment in ITS technology, as it creates new opportunities to manage demand and improve the efficiency of our road networks. This enables governments to extract maximum value from existing and future investments, which is in the best interests of transport users as well as taxpayers,” Ms Chau said.