The freedom of the open road
So the government has announced its route options for Westlink - its "number one priority project".
Whatever option is chosen, the outlet ("hell mouth" as one resident calls it) will come out south west of JJ Holland Park at Dock Link Road, with further links to Dynon Road and Footscray Road. The government has admitted there will be 60,000 vehicles a day using Westlink. A three lane freeway at peak hour would be expected to deliver about 5,000 vehicles an hour.
The result will be gridlock in Footscray Road and Dynon Road. That means much of the traffic will move up Kensington Road and along Macaulay Road - causing massive traffic jams in Kensington. Each evening the process will be reversed, with cars using Kensington to get back on to Westlink.
When planners were asked about this, they answered that trucks would not be able to get under the railway bridge on Kensington Road. This may be true of some trucks, but not all. It will have no effect on the thousands 0f cars which will constitute the majority of the traffic from Westlink.
The heavy traffic load will also mean gridlock in West Melbourne as cars and trucks try to get to and from the city on every available route.
Westlink is the first stage of the controversial Eddington east-west tunnel. The government said so in its documents sent to Infrastructure Australia, obtained by the Greens under the Freedom of Information Act. The RACV is already calling for completion of the whole tunnel.
The build up in traffic will be used to advocate further tunneling, and the result will be ventilation stacks and outlets across the parkland between Kensington and Fitzroy. We don't want to struggle to win something we thought we'd already won.
There is something decidedly dodgy about the government's figures. The say that Westlink will cost only $3 billion. They told Infrastructure Australia that the shorter version of the tunnel would cost $5.8 billion.
There is no federal funding for this project, because Victoria could show no net economic benefit for the project: we would be spending $3 for every $1 gained. Just what is the economic justification for this white elephant?
We don't want the pollution, the noise, and the traffic of Westlink. The entire route follows an underutilized train line. For a fraction of the cost we could have a proper commuter service.
In an era when climate change is a pressing reality, and when peak oil is rendering the combustion engine too expensive, we should be well past thinking of building more roads for gas-guzzling vehicles.