A fierce debate over the removal of a 300-year-old redgum to make way for a tollway on-ramp has highlighted the need for smarter infrastructure planning.
State Member for Eastern Metro Rod Barton, whose electorate traverses the site of the proposed toll road, says the rush to deliver the $15.8 billion North East Link is not taking advantage of the benefits of smart infrastructure planning.
“It’s not just about rushing in to ‘build big’ – it’s about careful, innovative planning that taps into the brains of the world’s best engineers, architects and builders,” Mr Barton said.
The reference design for the North East Link shows the 300-year-old redgum, and a nearby business park will be razed to create connections to the toll road.
“The North East Link is a vital project, but it must be done right!”
“It’s not good enough to wipe out dozens of businesses and local icons like the redgum because it’s the easiest solution,” Mr Barton said.
Voicing the concerns of local people, Mr Barton wants to see more focus placed on competitive bidding by private sector consortia to create better design outcomes.
“At the moment, the North East Link plans are only a reference design to start the bidding and detailed design process. This is not a passport to start cutting down trees, raze businesses, compulsorily acquire homes and divert local waterways.”
“My advice to the project managers is to slow down and not rush – see it, plan it and only then do it,” he said.
As Member for the Eastern Metropolitan region in the Victorian Legislative Council, Mr Barton is compiling a long list of concerns presented by local Councils, businesses, sporting clubs and local people.
“Many people feel that the rush to start works is closing the door of innovation and quality design – especially as the consultation period for the environmental approvals has been crunched down to 40 days, 10 of which were the extended Easter-Anzac Day break.”
Mr Barton also advocates that the bidding process must promote design innovation and include tolling options.
“The bidding for Eastlink went right down to the wire. The competitive tension forced the bidders to offer up additional design outcomes that saved wiping out shops and businesses and even resulted in no tolls for some local trips.”
“We want the best from this project in engineering, urban design, traffic flow and the local environment. It’s the taxpayers and road users that will pay for it so we want the best value for our money, he said.
In Parliament last week Mr Barton highlighted the need for the construction of the proposed Doncaster busway well before the major road disruptions commence.
“Local people need to have viable travel alternatives – the work of construction contractors should not make people rat-run through local streets or endure unnecessary delays that can be avoided with smart planning.”
“People need to ensure that their voices are heard by making a submission to the project’s approval process which closes on June 7,” Mr Barton said.
Mr Barton’s office is offering support to local residents and businesses who may be affected by the North East Link and need help putting together submissions. Locals can contact the office on 9850 8600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org