The State Government had announced 4 potential road alignments for the North East Link to connect the Western Ring Road to East Link, and complete Melbourne's Ring Road. These options were open for public discussion, with the 4 proposed routes originally proposed being:
Option A has been the alignment recently adopted by the State Government, which they have indicated they will take to the next election prior to commencement.
Please note the distances stated for each alignment by the North East Link Authority are the indicative lengths of construction only. When comparing the route alignments for the travel benefits of freight transport, the shorter construction alignments of Corridors A, B & C should also include the distance along East Link & the Eastern Freeway from where the Option D alignment diverts from Eastlink. This makes the overall route travel distances fairly similar.
There were likely pros/cons for all these proposed alignments.
Whilst I am not opposed to the Construction of Option A, I don't believe the adopted Option A will be successful in the long term as a functional & efficient ring road for Melbourne. This option is located too close to the city and will be compromised for efficiency by the already congested Eastern Freeway and restricted by the existing Melba tunnels/Ringwood interchangeparticularly around the Eastlink tunnels & Springvale Road area. I don't see how 6 additional lanes of traffic to be constructed on the Eastern Freeway at Springvale Road will process traffic through the unwidened Eastlink tunnels which will act like a "chicane" on the ring road route. Traffic congestion through Nunawading and Mitcham are likely to result, as traffic in this area will likely split off from the Ring road into the existing public road network (ie Springvale Road /Mitcham Road / Blackburn Road/ Maroondah Highway), as already occurs. The non construction of the East-West Link at the city end of the Eastern Freeway will also cause traffic issue for this inner city ring road alignment. This option most likely will become congested much early in its life expectancy, but its shorter distance & likely high capacity of use made it attractive for both the State Government & future Toll Road Operators. This option provides a shorter term fix to Melbourne's Freeway ring road, but will likely still require the completion of one of the other ralignment routes in the future.
Options B & C were similar. These are likely a sufficient distance from the city in the short term, but will likely become congested with commuter traffic as Melbourne continues to grow. These options would likely have had strong interest from Toll Road operators, as its likely to have a significant mix of commuter/freight traffic, which will likely lead to the road having a signiciant chance of commercial success on their investment.
Option D is a true outer ring road, and would likely provide the most long term efficiency for freight traffic movements around our city. However, its likely to result in commuter traffic continuing to use the existing road infrastructure network throughout Melbourne, as the Yarra Ranges corridor is not a growth population corridor for the city. This option would provide a significant boost to the accessibility of the Yarra Ranges for Tourism, as travel to/from the City or the airport to the Yarra Valley would have direct freeway access. The reduced commuter traffic, together with the length of construction, means that it would probably be the least preferred option for Toll Road operators, as it would likely have the highest risk of return on their investment.
Large infrastructure projects like these need long term thinking when it comes to decision making. I would have preferred Options B, C & D to be adopoted, with Option D likely to have provided my business with the best opportunity for efficiency in travel on a daily basis.
There is still time to have your say in regards to the North East Link adopted route alignment, by the use of your vote at the next State election.