7 March – Day Five

Friday 7 March

Final update for week one

The final expert called for the week was Stoettrup for LMA (business impacts).

Wrenn interrogated Stoettrup on her brief from LMA. Did she tender for the work. No, she was invited, she says.

Were there any written instructions given as a brief to her. “No.”

Wren hones in on reference to Glaeser’s work (the same book referred to by Morris and now available for loan from the panel) – had she read him prior to doing witness statement?  “No”.

Wren asked whether she was asked to write her report in accordance with a template. “Yes.”

To what extent was the original report added to subsequently? “Extensively.”

Ms Hicks for Moonee Valley asked who edited her independent report: we were told GHD edited the pages she wrote in her submission.

Turning to the substance of her evidence, businesses losses in Alexandra Pde were estimated at $3.2m business loss in first year.  Moonee Valley counsel challenged her on why business costs in Moonee Ponds were considered too distant from the project to be significant.  The witness did not consider businesses in Moonee Ponds would be impacted as the trams and pedestrian crossings would allow continuous traffic flow.

Vision Australia kennels with 90-110 dogs and 164 staff, would be unfit for purpose. LMA working with Vision Australia.

On the question of the high pressure gas pipe under Alexandra Pde and if it were breached during construction, Stoettrup says this is a risk, but she did not address it in her report.

And so ends the week…. a summary of the key points will be delivered, but after an intense week, Friday night’s blog delivery service level is slower than the EWL tunnel during morning peak in 2031….

3pm update

Wyatt: “The Urban Design Framework sets out a framework of possibilities that could be done… it is not prescriptive.”

Just after lunch, the cross-examination focused in on the ‘gateway’ experiences at the two tunnel portals.

Pitt asked Wyatt about the role of the western portal as a ‘gateway’ to the city. Wyatt said this could tie in western portal with Citylink features: “[it] could be an iconic gateway but it doesn’t necessarily need to be competitive [with Citylink]”.

Wren quipped it was “really a back door as everybody is leaving”.

Finanzio followed in cross-examination focusing on what constitutes good urban design.

He talked about the character of Melbourne and the inner north “when you are passing through this part of the world, you know that you are not passing through Sydney, or Brisbane”. 

Finanzio asserted (1) that overhead structures in this area bring with them the most significant urban design issues that the project can face, and (2) that the tunnel is an urban design “no brainer” through this area. Wyatt agreed the tunnel is the best outcome.

Hicks asked Wyatt to refer to Good Transport Design by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect which sets out how to undertake good urban design in transport. The document includes the requirement for early community consultation.

Wyatt said he was not involved in any stakeholder engagement prior to the release of the CIS: consultation was undertaken by LMA.

Wyatt agreed with Hicks it is important to consider the cumulative impact on Moonee Valley of East West Link together with CityLink.

Tom Pikusa, legal counsel for community groups, clarified the East West Link in Royal Park is coloured ‘pink’ as bored tunnel in the map book, but should really be ‘orange’ cut and cover. Wyatt agreed that while there is a preference for tunnelling in Royal Park, the cut and cover option has been left open in the CIS.

Pikusa pointed out that the project boundary runs within a few metres of Anzac Hall and the State Netball and Hockey Centre (these lie just outside the boundary). Was this considered in determining the project boundary? Wyatt was unsure.

Wyatt was not asked to consider alternative locations for the emissions structure in Royal Park.

1pm update

Moving on to pretty pictures of flyover decorations – like these pictures of urban design treatments of a freeway in Toronto.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 12.43.45 PM

We learnt from Alan Wyatt that he “has confidence [the EWL] will be a good urban design outcome” and  the EWL would be part of Melbourne’s fabric for our lifetimes.

But later he told us that “everybody would agree that elevated road structures can be detrimental”.

And while Royal Park is a relatively “tranquil, pleasant place to be”, the project “will definitely change it, and will probably change it for the worse”.

Wyatt considers Melbourne City Council’s options could retain it as an attractive space, albeit completely changed. “It will change it originally adversely”.

Earlier, Wren QC asked whether Wyatt recommended any options to LMA to change the reference design to minimise its impact. Wren cites the Macquarie definition of minimise: to reduce to the smallest possible amount.

“The whole project design is around minimisation, because of the tunnel”, said Wyatt.  “I think there is a lot of minimisation that is in the reference design.”

He said that the “tunnel across Royal Park is good urban design outcome.  Thirty years ago there would have been a freeway across it.”

Wyatt said he didn’t know what level of importance was accorded to visual impact and urban design when selecting the reference project and that it is not an expression of the urban design principles.

“We were given a road project that wasn’t resolved in terms of how it fitted onto the ground.”

Wren pointed to a phrase in the CIS describing the potential to recover Moonee Ponds Creek waterway values as low.  He questioned the commitment to improving the Moonee Ponds Creek concrete drain from a client (LMA) who held this view.

Wyatt said he didn’t think Moonee Ponds Creek “could be made worse” and that there are opportunities to improve it.

Wyatt was also asked about the rate of growth and the habitats of River Red gums – there was much discussion about the capacity of tree planting to “minimise the awfulness”.  Some quick research here tells us that they grow 2.5m per year.

There was discussion on how Bendigo St west residents would wake up to a good view of a pocket park, trees and a sound wall  – which would be an attractive outlook.

Wyatt agrees the undersides of recent projects such as Westgate upgrade and Citylink, are all awful.

Here is a flavour of the cross-examination exchange:

Wren: You say we celebrate Westgate? You become inspired?

Wyatt: There are much better bridges around the world.

Wren: … [what is your] approach to large and potentially very visually intrusive infrastructure?

Wyatt: I keep pointing back to tunnel to being a response at some level to take it out of public realm and put it underground.

11:30am

We have been talking for an hour about the safety levels of a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) design for the Hoddle St interchange that removes the flyover and urban design impacts and was proposed by Yarra.

Brock agrees that it is cheaper, more space efficient and that there are 17 in the US. See http://www.divergingdiamond.com

Questions have been asked about whether the turning speed on a DDI is slower compared to other interchange alternatives including the reference design. There is no significant difference.

But in response to Qs from LMA, Brock says he would be cautious about testing the DDI design for the first time in Australia on Hoddle St.

We all know more about DDIs than we ever thought possible.

Interestingly, Morris QC, for LMA, listed all people involved in the consortium or joint venture responsible for the reference design.  They include: representatives from John Holland, Leighton, Dragados, SKM, AECOM and was directed by Malcolm Short of John Holland.  Morris named specific contributors: John Welsh of Leighton, Barry Cox of Leighton, Brian Fittz of SKM, Phillip Health SKM, Jeff Keys of AECOM and LMA personnel. They were supported by other members of their firms.  They were involved in putting together the Reference Design.

10:30am

Preliminaries this morning:

Yesterday there were conflicting views about whether Mr Brock could or should prepare a revision of the Hoddle St flyover. The committee ruled that it would not seek any further revisions on proposals or flyovers.

The committee also reaffirmed the purpose of the project is to connect the eastern freeway with CityLink.

One of the documents circulated by Mr Brock yesterday inadvertently contained commercial in confidence details about ‘Project Zebra’ and a new document will be tabled in its place. Project Zebra was reported in The Age in June 2013 as negotiations between Transurban and the state government to deal with extra toll revenue from CityLink resulting from the East West Link.

“CityLink operator Transurban stands to gain hundreds of millions of dollars under a lucrative deal with the state government to split the extra toll revenue it raises because of increased traffic flows from the east-west link.”
Read more

We are now hearing Yarra counsel, Finanzio, forcefully cross-examining Mr Brock about his expert witness report.

Finanzio is asking Brock about the alternative diverging diamond interchange (DDI) proposed for the Hoddle Street by Yarra City Council.

Brock’s design of DDI includes dedicated bus lanes – this is based on a state government commitment to bus lanes on Hoddle Street and the eastern freeway. Under examination, Brock says he is not aware of documented policy basis for this policy commitment, rather the inclusion of bus lanes was based on a newspaper article.

Brock agrees some research on road design options and alternatives is “google based”.

More to come…

You can find Thursday 6 March daily blog here.

Read an excellent summary by Andrew Herington here.

Fairfax reporter Adam Carey again covered the hearings here highlighting 

Traffic on the East West Link in the morning peak is expected to have slowed to 20-30 km/h by 2031 as worsening congestion pushes the road close to capacity just 12 years after it is due to open.

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