West Gate Distributor / West Gate Ramps
The West Gate Distributor / West Gate Ramps proposal is for new on/off ramps to create a direct route for trucks to the Port of Melbourne from the West Gate Freeway. The ramps will join the West Gate Freeway near Williamstown Road, providing a direct connection to Hyde Street, and enabling a connection to Whitehall Street through Yarraville’s industrial areas, across Shepherds Bridge to Footscray Road and into Swanson Dock.
The bypass ramps were first proposed as a truck-only route as part of the Eddington study recommendations, and were promised by Labor in 2007, before they lost office.
In the lead up to the 2014 election, Labor pledged that this project would be fast tracked and completed within four years of them winning office.
At that point, the West Gate Distributor was estimated to cost around $500 million and projected to take 5,000 trucks a day off the West Gate Bridge, and remove up to 1,000,000 trucks per year from residential streets in the inner west.
The Greens support the building of the West Gate Ramps, and their policies include $100 million Federal money towards this infrastructure.
The first stage of the project was completed in mid 2017. This stage involved widening Moreland Street to a four lane divided road, new signalised intersections in Moreland Street at Footscray Road, Parker Street and Whitehall Street, as well as a $40 million upgrade to widen and strengthen Shepherds Bridge. A separate shared pedestrian and cyclist bridge was also constructed to replace the pedestrian and cycling paths that had been removed from Shepherds Bridge.
The strengthening of Shepherd Bridge enabled it to be used by High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs), which can be up to 36.5 metres in length and 68.5 tonnes in weight.
For more information on Stage One see https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/planning-and-projects/melbourne-road-projects/west-gate-distributor
Stage two of the project would have involved the building of the new on and off ramps, as well as the upgrade and duplication of Whitehall Street.
This stage did not commence, and has since been replaced by the West Gate Tunnel Project, which includes similar ramp connections from the West Gate Freeway to Hyde Street.
What MTAG thinks
MTAG thinks that the ramp connections from the West Gate Freeway to Hyde Street are an important part of any solution for truck traffic problems in the inner west. These ramps will ensure that placarded loads do not continue to use the residential streets of Melbourne’s inner west, as well as providing an alternative to Francis Street and other residential streets for trucks travelling between the Spotswood industrial area and Melbourne’s west.
However, while the West Gate Distributor may have been the best option at the time it was proposed, MTAG no longer believes that this is the case.
A ramps-only option will concentrate thousands of trucks on to a single route, and will leave them travelling on open roads with no opportunity to capture noise or filter diesel emissions. This open road will run directly past Yarraville Gardens, one of the most significant areas of open space in the City of Maribyrnong.
A ramps-only option would also see those ramps carry a much higher volume of trucks and other vehicles when compared to the tunnel and ramp combination that is being delivered by the West Gate Tunnel Project.
Of all the proposed infrastructure solutions, the ramps have the broadest consensus across our community. However, they are not universally supported. In particular, some community members and groups believe that both ramps should be constructed on the northern side of the West Gate Freeway.
MTAG thinks locating the ramps on either side of the West Gate Freeway, and hugging the bridge as close as possible, is the most equitable in terms of minimising impacts on local communities and open space. It will also remove the need for additional freeway flyovers that would have a huge visual impact on neighbouring communities as well as increasing noise travel.
However, because the ramp design is not universally supported, there is a risk of ongoing community opposition.
MTAG is concerned that in the absence of further infrastructure, the construction of the first stage only of the West Gate Distributor project has exposed residential areas to even bigger trucks, and could condemn Moreland, Napier, Buckley, Moore and Whitehall Streets to being heavy vehicle routes for a very long time.
MTAG also believes any infrastructure project must be partnered by a blanket truck ban on residential streets in the inner west to ensure that trucks use it. Blanket truck bans were not proposed as part of the West Gate Distributor project.