What’s been said about the East West Link

Here begins a summary of the comments made about the East West Link over the past 28 days at the public hearings.  More will be added to this list as the hearings wrap up today and tomorrow.

What’s been said about the East West Link

1. The process has lacked rigour

Three engineers told the panel the process for the East West Link is irredeemably flawed.  Dr Paul Steinfort, Dr Simon Moodie and Professor Tony Marjoram criticised the project’s “methodological flaws”.

Moodie said the CIS did not assess alternative approaches to deal with the problem of traffic congestion but rather it “considers the proposal in isolation”. He described the discussion of costs and benefits as skewed – benefits are detailed whereas costs ignored. He said the CIS is inconsistent with the principles of triple bottom line assessment and transparency set out in the Transport Integration Act 2010.

Dr Steinfort, said the process is being “rushed without due probity and transparency” and raised particular concerns about the timeframes and the lack of information about detailed design.

Professor Tony Marjoram said more roads encourage more cars which results in increased congestion and the project will be the single, major budget item in Victoria, costing $5,000 per Victorian taxpayer.

Verdict: there should be an independent review of the need for the East West Link with particular reference to short and long term traffic projections, cost projections, cost/benefit analysis comparing the project with other possible investments such as public transport and 50+year business plan.

 

2. The proposed East West Link presents a threat to the animals at Melbourne Zoo.

The noise levels sanctioned by VicRoads for new major toll roads including the proposed East West Link are at levels that, according to two reports from the World Health Organisation, would cause adverse health effects on people and by reasonable extension to vulnerable zoo animals.

Tolerable noise levels are critical at night when species such as elephants and rhinos that will be within 100 to 150 metres of the road and, like people, need a good night’s sleep. In fact, many species are even more sensitive to noise and vibration including our Australian nocturnal animals.

The East West Link open cut road and ‘tunnel’ would be dug, blasted and opened to thousands of trucks and other vehicles within earshot of the zoo.

The annual average night exposure should not exceed 40 dB(A) outdoors, a standard accepted in Europe and many other countries.

The LMA has tabled contour maps that suggest noise readings in excess of 67 dB (A) at the southeast corner of the Zoo. This is an alarming reading and not one easily mitigated.

The difference between 40 and 67 decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, so that noise 10 decibels louder are actually 10 times louder.

 

3. Inaccuracies in the CIS

Presentations have cited misinformation in the CIS about:

  • the distance of works from the zoo (the LMA says 150m despite its own maps showing works as close as 20m)
  • the relevance of international examples of Oregon Zoo, USA and Yagiyama Zoo, Japan given (both are rail tunnels, not roads)
  • Susan Pepper, a birding specialist, spoke about the habitats in Royal Park. She said the biodiversity study done for the CIS would “not pass as a university assignment” because of the hurried and inaccurate collection of data.
  • Janet Rice, Victorian Greens Senator-elect said the assessment of the likely impact of the East West Link on Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions “is profoundly inadequate”.
  • Dr Nicholas Williams, a senior lecturer from the University of Melbourne said the project should be a ‘controlled action’ under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act as it would destroy the only remaining piece of remnant vegetation in the City of Melbourne.
  • William Fooks, a transport planner and forecaster recently returned from London, spoke about the weakness of relying on agglomeration benefits, which are normally associated with rail rather than road projects.He said there was insufficient data in the CIS to make any assessment of the claims.
  • The Residents Against Tunnel team said no background air quality data has been collected and there is little information about structural damage to properties caused by blasting, vibrations, ground subsidence due to changing water tables.
  • Safety Net for Royal Park highlighted that the lack of consideration of alternative designs or routes, to avoid or minimise impacts.

 

4. The EWL will directly impact homes and families

The following people all described the physical impact of the EWL on their homes and lives: Christine Di Muccio, Helen Masters, David and Millie Boag, Susan White, Lina Maroun, Jennifer Bowen,  Meg Colasante and Anise Confait, Christopher Dalli, and more to come.

Owners of rental properties have said they are already experiencing difficulties in finding tenants, and are needing to reduce rents.

 

5. Royal Park will be damaged

More than the claimed one percent of the park will be affected by the tollway and its construction. LMA has proposed using all of Ross Straw Field and nearby areas including the remnant vegetation and Whites Skink habitat areas, and the section near the Zoo for construction works.

On day 29, Urban Camp revealed that two of the three tenderers they have spoken to are proposing cut and cover construction through Royal Park (within 8m of the Urban Camp). Cut and cover construction in Royal Park will result in the removal of the Australian Native Garden and recreational area near Gatehouse Street, remnant vegetation and bushland areas near the Upfield railway line and Elliott Avenue and the Women’s Recreation Centre south of the State Netball and Hockey Centre (Chapter 10, page 28 of the CIS).

 

6. Some homes will be badly affected without compensation

Several homeowners have highlighted the injustice of being just on the wrong side of the narrowly defined “proposed project boundary”.

Owners of flats built on unstable soil are still unable to get assurances regarding compensation for any cracking, despite suffering serious problems when CityLink was built nearby.

People sold houses in Parkville Gardens only six years ago on the promise of parkland and natural wetlands – now to face flyovers

Residents outside the proposed project boundary have already received letters telling them the LMA cannot legally acquire their property – despite saying to the assessment committee that they can make recommendations where a case is made.

The committee has declined LMA’s invitation to make recommendations on individual cases and LMA has so far not responded to the request for a process for considering these matters.

Slater and Gordon made a further submission on land acquisition and the issue is still actively debated.

 

7. The East West Link does not comply with the Transport Integration Act 2009 

The Transport Integration Act 2009 applies to the East West Link project but transport groups say the Act’s objectives and decision making principles have been ignored in the project’s comprehensive impact statement.

Under section 63 of this Act the Minister is required to issue a transport plan and make decisions adhering to the priorities in that plan. However, no new transport plan has been adopted since the original 2008 plan. The 2008 plan reflected Eddington’s recommendations, which were that the Melbourne Metro and the WestLink project (Sunshine to Footscray road link) should have priority.

 

8. Specific community sites will be affected – some would have to close

Ross Straw Field, the first baseball field in Victoria, would be lost. The Flemington community centre would be over-shadowed and exist beneath a flyover. The recently completed guide dogs training centre would be unusable after years of fundraising and planning. The Urban Camp will have to close or relocate during the construction phase and rehabilitation of cut and cover works in Royal Park.

 

9. The tunnel will have an adverse impact on air quality

Dr. Irving gave strong evidence about the risk of fine particulates and the existence of health hazards at very low levels and the high level of variability in emissions which make standards based on annual averages a bit meaningless when it comes to the risks individuals get exposed to day to day.

Stuart Morris QC, for LMA attacked Irving’s credentials to speak on freeway issues and highlighted that Australia’s standards are better than in some other countries.

Clifton Hill Primary School expressed concerns about real and perceived impacts due to the nearby vent stack on school children, and said parents of children with respiratory conditions such as asthma are already turning down places at the school.

 

10. The CIS avoided discussion on public transport, cycling and walking

The CIS was criticised for lack of planning for complementary public transport and bicycle facilities and the narrow focus on a one-tunnel solution.

The Bicycle Network highlighted disruption during construction and new facilities and a long list of specific proposals they tabled are not part of the Performance requirements.

The Victorian Transport Action Group gave a detailed analysis of the commuter issues affecting Manningham and the sequence of steps to upgrade it in the most cost effective way – buses, light rail and heavy rail with the objective of carrying an additional 65,000+ passengers by 2031.

The Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport talked about removal of the rail reservation in the central easement of the freeway, the lack of detail about the promised $49 million bus upgrade and bus lanes, and the absence of a bus interchange at Victoria Park station (as recommended by Eddington).

The figures assumed no upgrade to the DART Bus, no bus lane in Hoddle St and the no Doncaster rail line.

All of these public transport improvements were excluded from the traffic modelling.

 

11. Traffic volumes on Alexandra Parade in 2031 will be similar to levels today.

Traffic volumes in 2031 would be 72,000 vpd (east of Wellington St) and Alexandra Pde would not become a lightly trafficked boulevard and trams would enjoy much more green light time.

The LMA argued Alexandra Pde would be worse than today, but better than they calculate it would be in 2031 if the East West Link is not built (88,000 vpd).

 

12. The RACV supported building the East West Link

Brian Negus from the RACV spoke on behalf of a number of business groups and relied heavily on data, cut and pasted from the CIS.

 

13. Businesses and other properties will be acquired and impacted

Provans Timber yard have been operating in Alexandra Pde since 1903 but now their site is to be acquired.  Provans acquired an alternative site, however they later discovered this site will have access affected during the five-year construction phase.

 

14. Sporting clubs would be displaced

The Mercantile Cricket Club would temporarily relocate to other grounds at the expense of the club.  More on this.

 

15. EPA would have little scope for demanding higher standards

The EPA can only enforce current standards. The EPA does not require any consideration of the greenhouse contribution from construction or from increased traffic flows that increase the overall state emissions.

On water, the EPA saw no need for the discharged water to meet the SEPP requirements and said its general policy now was that discharges only needed to match the water quality already in the creek.

On handling the contaminated soils, the EPA said they weren’t looking at storage or disposal sites for these, but would “look at any proposals when they are put to us”.

 

16. LMA’s traffic data for Hoddle Street has been inconsistent

The figures make the peculiar claim that 5,000 cars a day will drive west through the tunnel but come back east along Alexandra Pde.

They also struggled to explain why, if the traffic movements from Hoddle St south onto the freeway are to drop from 32,000 vehicles per day (vpd) to just 14,000 vpd in 2031, such a massive three lane bridge is required to provide for this when the existing loop has worked successfully for 30 years handling twice the traffic.

Thirdly, it revealed that over 16% of the traffic in the tunnel will be coming to and from Hoddle St and not from the Eastern Freeway at all.

As Mr Morris explained it “there is no doubt this intersection will be busier in the future than it is now”.

 

17. The project would only have to comply with Victoria’s noise standards that are weaker than NSW’s

Noise expert, Robin Brown, took the assessment committee through the impacts on the Flemington Housing Estate that would be as close as 37 metres from the proposed freeway viaduct.

The LMA want the Part B viaduct and the Hoddle St bridge treated as existing roads (for which the standard is 68 dB) rather than new roads (for which it is 63dB).

There are no noise limits or policies for open space in Victoria (unlike NSW), and areas of Royal Park may experience levels of 70dB, which will limit the recreational value and uses of park areas near viaducts and the portal.

Night time traffic noise (between midnight and 6am) is not measured by VicRoads despite this time being critical nearby residents to get a good night’s sleep.

 

18. The net community benefit test should be the basis for the assessment committee its decision

 

19. Mitigation measures can have a negative impact on community spaces.

Putting up a noise wall to mitigate traffic noise but can change the visual outlook and increase the social impact of the project by separating communities.

Growing up in a construction zone for five years would be a childhood lost for a school age child.

 

20. Moonee Valley will be badly impacted

The freeway proposal clashed with many of the strategies the Moonee Valley City Council has put in place to improve the quality of life for residents. Traffic is expected to increase across the inner west as a result of the proposed East West Link (according to the Demons Diagram). Traffic may be even worse than modelled, as models did not consider the effects of the Moonee Valley Racecourse Redevelopment.

Mitigating measures to deal with the loss of open space and upgrades to Moonee Ponds Creek would cost several million dollars.

Debney’s Park playground could not be replicated.

 

21. Ormond Road off-ramp lacked analysis.

The very late addition to the project of an off-ramp at Ormond Rd has never been satisfactorily explained. The fact there is no equivalent on-ramp is even more peculiar.

It creates asymmetric traffic flows as the absence of an Ormond Rd on-ramp means all the east bound traffic has to go down Mt Alexander Rd and Elliot Avenue whereas westbound traffic uses CityLink and Ormond Rd.

 

22. Impacts on heritage

The National Trust has called the East West Link “one of the most heritage-adverse projects of the last few decades”.

Adverse impacts on heritage, include Royal Park (including the Australian Native Garden, Anzac Hall, Urban Camp, the Zoo and the park itself), the Shot Tower, Gold Street and Clifton Hill West heritage precincts, Victoria Park, the former Box’s Hair Curling Works and historically significant trees along Flemington Road, in Royal Park and along Alexandra Parade.

No information has been provided about impacts on Aboriginal heritage, which are dealt with separately under Victoria’s Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 cultural heritage management plan process.

 

23. Impacts on the natural environment

Dr Nicholas Williams, University of Melbourne senior lecturer said the project will destroy the only remaining piece of remnant vegetation left in the City of Melbourne. This vegetation is the critically endangered grassy woodland. Dr Williams said the project should be a ‘controlled action’ under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and that LMA provided misleading information to the Federal environment department.

Friends of Royal Park detailed the loss of the Trin Warren Tam-boor wetlands and the Whites Skink habitat.

Impacts on Moonee Ponds Creek are significant and effectively consign the creek to a future of poor water quality due to over-shadowing, runoff and difficulty re-establishing vegetation under viaducts.

 

24. Visually intrusive tunnel “gateways” 

Proposed “gateways” signifying either end of the tunnel will intrude on Royal Park in the west, and the prominence of the Shot Tower in the east. Community members have expressed a preference for minimising the visual intrusion at tunnel portals.

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One Comment on “What’s been said about the East West Link”

  1. Antonio April 17, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Excellent summation and thank you for the blog!

    As the EWL is clearly for financial gain, it is appalling that the RACV has abandoned its own Members who are part of the community whose lives are being seriously affected; and have decided to back a handful of ‘fat’ companies in bed with the government, whose CEO’s reside well-away from the proposed East West Link.

    I call on RACV MEMBERS affected by EWL to boycott and cancel their membership and services, to send a clear message to foolish Brian Negus and the RACV that the community is severely upset about this massive impact beyond comprehension.
    The RACV needs a wake up call to act far more responsibly, by being thorough and critical of the data they use, as they have a duty of care to people and the environment.

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