Two potential routes
Mr Negus says there are two potential routes for the link. One would head south from the end of the Metropolitan Ring Road at Greensborough. It would join the Eastern Freeway near Bulleen Rd. The other is to go south-east to join the Eastern Freeway and EastLink near Ringwood. Both routes would involve tunnelling to avoid passing though sensitive areas such as the Banyule Flats or the Yarra Wetlands.
“Upgrades to the Eastern Freeway would be necessary with both scenarios but a completed system is essential and could be deliverable within a decade,” he says. “We propose that the Government conducts an urgent planning and environmental inquiry with comprehensive community and stakeholder consultation to determine the best route.”
Link would have immediate effect
Peter Anderson, CEO of the Victorian Transport Association, which represents the trucking industry, says an immediate 40% reduction in truck traffic on suburban roads could be expected if the North East Link were built.
“There would be an instant return in fuel use reductions and productivity gains because heavy vehicles would be utilised more efficiently,” Mr Anderson says. “These benefits would flow through to the economy because more deliveries could be made throughout the day.
“We estimate the North East Link could be built for between $6 and $9 billion and be completed within five years. We are confident any business case and modelling would justify the project.”
RACV calculations show that the longest of the possible routes to complete the Ring Road could halve travel times between Eastlink at Ringwood and the current end of the Metropolitan Ring Road at Greensborough.
David Wallace, president of the Vegetable Growers Association of Victoria, says the truck curfew on Rosanna Rd clashes with delivery hours for the new Melbourne wholesale fruit and vegetable market at Epping.
“About 5000 trucks access the market a day and 3000 of them might be heading back to the eastern side of Melbourne. It puts a lot of pressure on small roads.”
Sonja Terpstra from the Banyule United Residents Group says building the North East Link is only part of any solution.
Out of the box thinking needed
“We need out of the box thinking; we can’t just do what we have always done.”
She says an approach that includes public transport, cycling infrastructure and other transport initiatives is needed.
The area’s population is growing rapidly, she says, but pressures such as education choices are adding to congestion. “We have people driving past perfectly good schools to send their children to schools in Banyule. That adds to traffic.”
While the two councils most affected – Banyule and Nillumbik – agree a North East link freeway is vital, they have opposing views on the route.
Banyule Mayor Craig Langdon says his council wants the road to run east through Nillumbik, joining EastLink beyond the Mullum Mullum tunnel near Ringwood.
Nillumbik Mayor Bronnie Hattam wants it to pass through Banyule, heading south to the Eastern Freeway.
In the interim, both councils advocate better public transport, cycling infrastructure and road safety improvements.
House values suffering
Local real estate agent Brett Greig says house values are suffering. “Rosanna Rd is a hard sell, the hardest in this district. And that’s because it’s the worst road, traffic-wise, in the metropolitan area – with the possible exception of Punt Rd.”
Dr John Stone, senior lecturer in transport planning at Melbourne University, opposes the link. “Melbourne’s transport planning has for decades been focused on ‘solving’ congestion at the next hot spot. Instead, we need to ask what sort of transport system we need to tackle problems of climate change, air pollution, social exclusion, and the wasted hours of long commutes and weekend traffic jams,” Dr Stone says.
RACV’s Brian Negus says the “failure of successive Governments to achieve a bipartisan long-term plan for road and public transport infrastructure, and then implement it, has created the transport problems being faced across Victoria.
“It would be hard for any public transport service in the corridor across the north-east to make a substantial difference,” he says. “It would leave trucks running through residential communities.”
But where does this leave the Rosanna Rd residents? Francesca Taranto has twice returned home to a power outage because a truck had struck a power pole.
“What do families with small children do? Our house was freezing, so we had to go to bed at 8pm to keep warm,” she says.
An action group, Resolve Rosanna Road, works with VicRoads to look at short-term ways to improve the road. Member and local resident George Kio says the government was made aware of the issues, including with a petition to Parliament before the 2014 state election that had more than 600 signatures.
“Still there’s no sign of the North East Link on the agenda,” Mr Kio says. “Governments seem to put the project in the too-hard basket.”
- 40% Expected reduction in trucks on suburban roads if the North East Link is built. Source: Victorian Transport Association
- $3 billion Cost of congestion in Melbourne and Geelong in 2011
- Source: Infrastructure Australia
- $9 billion Projected cost of congestion in Melbourne and Geelong in 2031 Source: Infrastructure Australia.