Traffic, job losses, noise, poor amenity and environment impacts are among the many issues raised by stakeholders in submissions to the main approval process for the North East Link Toll road.
Upper House MP Rod Barton, whose Eastern Metro electorate is hardest hit by the $16 billion project, says his office has received many calls, emails and messages identifying local community issues with the project.
“This is a vital project, but in the rush to get started, it seems things are being missed,” Mr Barton said.
Concerns raised with Mr Barton include the omission of important feeder roads such as parts of Bulleen and Templestowe Roads in the project planning.
“These single lane roads already struggle to cope with demand and the project documents show massive increases in traffic making them de-facto on-ramps to the tollway, yet these roads are currently deemed outside of the project boundary.”
Bulleen road, south of the Eastern Freeway is identified by the project’s managers as having an almost three-fold increase in traffic but is not included in the declared project area leaving locals concerned that no consideration to managing the impacts will be provided.
“If these roads are important enough to count vehicles in the planning stage they are important enough to be properly managed as part of the project and not left for other parts of government to fix if they become problems in the future,” Mr Barton said.
An independent expert panel will conduct public hearings on the project throughout July and August before reporting to the Minister for Planning.
In preparing his own submission, Rod Barton and his team have consulted with the local community and made a number of recommendations including making the currently unenforceable EPA construction guidelines the minimum standard in all contracts and re-thinking the highly invasive ‘cut and cover’ trenching method which will wipe out large areas of open green space and totally raze the Bulleen Business Centre.
“It’s not good enough to wipe out the main business hub in the Manningham municipality and put 1,200 people out of job simply because it makes building the road easier for contractors. There’s nowhere for these businesses to go and many businesses who are tenants are not eligible for compensation under state legislation – this needs an urgent re-think.”
Mr Barton’s submission also recommends the building of the new Rapid Transitway along the Eastern Freeway corridor before other works disrupt the already congested local road network.
“It makes sense to put the alternative public transport works in place before people are forced into suffering long delays, especially in the case of the project’s plan to shut down the Hurstbridge line for at least 6 weeks which will force locals onto the roads.”
Mr Barton also criticised the limited time provided for public submissions and the fact that the project managers had gone out to market well before the formal consultation period.
“When you take out the Anzac Day and Easter break, the process has only allowed around 30 days for people to make formal submissions, after which the consultation door was slammed shut.”
“There are some great opportunities that have been suggested in the submissions my office received – especially some initiatives proposed by local councils. I’m concerned that by putting the project out to the market before the start of the formal consultation process we may miss out on a chance to make an important project even better.” Mr Barton said.
“We’ve got one chance to get this right, it’s critical that we don’t let things slip through the cracks in the rush to start up the bulldozers,” Mr Barton said.
The government’s expert panel who will assess the project will meet for the first time this week for a Directions Hearing which will determine the timetable for the process.
The Directions Hearing will be held on Friday 21 June 2019 commencing at 10.00am at The Veneto Club, 191 Bulleen Road, Bulleen. The hearing is open to the public.