West abandoned to truck torment, an opinion piece in The Age October 10 2012
NOTHING better illustrates the western suburbs’ second-class status than the feeble efforts to control truck traffic through their neighbourhoods. Over two decades of rising congestion, noise and pollution, the Kennett, Bracks, Brumby and now Baillieu governments have all offered plans but never taken effective steps to stop trucks using residential roads as short cuts. Eastern suburbs residents would never tolerate heavy truck traffic only metres from their homes, but then, they enjoy the many benefits of living in marginal seats.
The problems created by more than 20,000 trucks using Maribyrnong City neighbourhoods each day are often dismissed with the response that anyone who settles in the area knows it is next to a busy port. That ignores the history of the problem and the severity of its impact on residents. The opening of the Western Ring Road and CityLink toll roads – to ease congestion elsewhere – and the relocation of container depots from the Docklands to allow for residential development transformed the inner west’s local roads for the worse.
In 2001, then premier Steve Bracks launched a VicRoads campaign to get trucks to use Bolte Bridge and the West Gate Freeway instead. The Environment Protection Authority had found alarming levels of diesel pollution, which causes respiratory illnesses and cancer. Curfews from 8pm to 6am took effect on Francis Street and Somerville Road, but policing has been lax. To avoid tolls, more trucks take residential short cuts, driven by a 30 per cent jump in shipping container traffic since 2006. That traffic is set to double by 2025.
In Francis Street, truck numbers have jumped from 6000 to 9000 in a decade. There is still more than one a minute during curfew, which has also pushed trucks onto other local roads. EPA monitoring found noise levels ”high enough to be of significant concern”. While elevated pollution levels are said to pose ”little risk to residents”, more children are admitted to hospital with respiratory illnesses than anywhere else in Melbourne. Some locals and their houses are cracking under the strain.
There is no relief in sight. After a decade of inaction, Labor had approved dedicated truck off-ramps providing a direct, 24-hour link between the freeway and port to cut truck numbers in residential streets by 70 per cent. The Baillieu government halted the project. Its preference, the east-west link between EastLink and CityLink, condemns inner-west residents to another decade of truck-induced despair. No neighbourhood should have to endure such disruptions, or such official indifference.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/editorial/a-new-paradigm-subverts-all-the-old-rules-20121009-27bre.html#ixzz29cZRZHOX