WHY I (CONDITIONALLY) SUPPORT THE WEST GATE TUNNEL PROJECT

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By Lisel Thomas, Yarraville resident and member of the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group

The West Gate Tunnel Project has the potential to take thousands of trucks off our residential streets in less than five years, and I think it should be built.

Truck numbers will continue to grow regardless of whether or not a tunnel is built, and the trucks will continue to use our residential streets until there is an alternative for them.

This project will enable 24-hour truck bans on Francis Street in Yarraville, Somerville Road in Kingsville, Moore Street and Buckley Street in Footscray, Hudson’s Road in Spotswood and Blackshaws Road in Altona North. These bans are only possible because trucks will have a more reliable and direct connection from the West Gate Freeway to the Port of Melbourne and City Link. The bans will take more than 9,000 trucks a day off our residential streets.

However, I do not support to the West Gate Tunnel Project unconditionally. Like the independent Planning Panel established to consider the Environmental Effects Statement for the project, I think tunnel filtration is required, with the cost of filtration being a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the cost of the whole project. And I think that there should be truck bans on Williamstown Road, which runs straight through the middle of Yarraville and Kingsville. I also support the communities that are fighting for truck bans on Millers Road in Brooklyn.

Personally, I think it makes more sense to advocate for the best possible outcomes for this project, rather than outright protesting against it.

A tunnel with proper filtration is a much better than an open road in terms of the surrounding air quality. Leaving the trucks spread across numerous arterial roads leaves many people exposed. Concentrating the emissions in a tunnel with filtration means those emissions can be captured and the community protected.

I am not anti-truck. Trucks delivering to local businesses and shops in Maribyrnong need to be on our streets. But I do not think port traffic should be taking shortcuts through our suburbs. Over 60 per cent of the trucks on our roads fall into this category. I am particularly concerned about the trucks that predate engine emissions standards and are ‘retired’ to the major cities for short haul trips. These are the trucks that do the empty container runs between the port and storage yards out west.

I do not support moving the truck problem into other residential areas. I also understand that just slapping on a ban is not the full answer. However asking for bans puts pressure on the government to address all sorts of issues, such as the need for a better links to the freeway from industrial areas. It keeps up the pressure and helps to generate the political will to further address what is a very complex problem.

Trucks on residential streets is a problem that needs an immediate solution. The City of Maribyrnong experiences one of Melbourne’s worst examples of environmental injustice. Each day almost 22,000 trucks from the Port of Melbourne rumble past our homes, schools, parks and child care centres.

There is no other major container port in a developed country without direct freeway access to their port. Truck drivers servicing the Port of Melbourne need a direct freeway connection, and City of Maribyrnong residents desperately need one for the sake of our health.

For over twenty years our community has been screaming out for a solution to this health and pollution crisis. In that time, most of Melbourne has turned a blind eye, while governments have promised plan after plan that have then gone nowhere – the Truck Action Plan, West Link, East West Link, the Victorian Transport Plan and the West Gate Distributor. The current plan on the table is the West Gate Tunnel Project. Of all these plans, the West Gate Tunnel Project is the best by far and will give us our streets back in less than five years.

Of course there are longer terms solutions that will help, things like freight on rail, public transport, and cleaner trucks, but they will not have the same impact and it would be decades before the benefits would be seen.

The health impacts in our community are evident. Our city has the highest hospital admission rate for children with respiratory ailments in the state and deaths from lung cancer in non-smoking adults are amongst the highest in Australia. In any other area this would be called a medical emergency. But here in Melbourne’s long-suffering west it’s business as usual, with most of Melbourne not caring if the existing status quo continues forever, consigning our streets to be freight sewers for the benefit of all Melbournians.

Residents here have just as much right to clean air and safe streets as someone living in other parts of Melbourne. The freight being moved through our streets is for the benefit of every Victorian, we should not pay the price with our health.

The West Gate Tunnel Project will take trucks off our residential streets and help to address one of the worst and longest running examples of environmental injustice in Melbourne.

We know the trucks are a problem. There is a solution on the table, and we have a chance to make it a good solution. I would prefer to take that chance while we have it.

Got a different view? Send it in and we’ll publish the best response next month!

2 Comments

  1. Bob

    April 12, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Excellent article Lisel, a balanced, sensible view well thought out, rather than a knee jerk reaction. We need more of this

  2. Mark P

    April 13, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Lisel may be willing to take a chance this project works, and living in Yarraville you can understand the desperation for a solution, but there are many who don’t see spending $6 billion on a toll road as chance solution worth taking the risk on, not when money could be better spent on better long term solutions for the entire Inner West, not just a chance solution for a few streets in Yarraville and a certain money making solution for Transurban.

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