THE Victorian Government and Melbourne Airport last week announced the start of works on the extension of Airport Drive, which is due to be completed by the third quarter of 2015 and will improve access by providing a second major entry point to the airport precinct.
The 3.3 kilometre extension of Airport Drive from Sharps Road to the intersection of Melrose Drive and Mercer Drive will consist of a four lane divided road (two lanes in each direction), with the provision to expand to six lanes at a later time. The $100 million project is fully funded by Melbourne Airport.
The project also includes a shared pedestrian and bike path adjacent to Airport Drive, a new road (Watson Drive) to allow local access to Melrose Drive, Essendon Football Club and the Business Park, and the realignment of Link Road to form a T-intersection with Airport Drive and Watson Drive.
In addition to improving access to Melbourne Airport from the M80 Ring Road, the extension is also expected to result in a reduced number of vehicles using Melrose Drive to access the airport, improved safety at the Link Road/Airport Drive intersection and reduced congestion throughout the airport's road network.
The Airport Drive extension will occur on Melbourne Airport land and the road will include provision for an airport rail line to be constructed along the centre median strip.
Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff said the project was important for the future growth of Melbourne Airport and Victoria. He added that the new entry point will improve access for people living north-west of Melbourne and for the airport's growing business park.
"The extended Airport Drive is scheduled to open before our new domestic terminal next year so passengers will have a smoother and more direct journey to and from the new Terminal 4 and integrated ground transport hub," Mr Woodruff said.
"Traffic congestion on the Tullamarine Freeway will also be reduced with the CityLink-Tullamarine Freeway widening project and we hope that funding is also soon committed to extend the rest of the Tullamarine Freeway through to Melbourne Airport.
"The new Airport Drive is also where the airport rail link will enter Melbourne Airport with room for the rail link in the centre of the extended four lane road. We are one of the only airports in the world with 30 million annual passengers, and no rail link, so we were delighted with the recent state government commitment to build a rail link from the CBD to Melbourne Airport."
Victorian Roads Minister Terry Mulder said the extension project will complement the government's plans to boost access to the airport through the Melbourne Airport Rail Link and the CityLink-Tulla Widening Project in conjunction with Transurban.
"Earlier this year the Napthine Government announced an $850 million upgrade and widening of both CityLink and a section of the Tullamarine Freeway to boost their capacity by 30 per cent," Mr Mulder said.
The government is also in discussions with the Federal Government to complete the widening of the Tullamarine Freeway to the Melbourne Airport.
"The Coalition Government has also committed to the Melbourne Rail Link which will deliver a reliable, convenient and efficient rail link to Melbourne Airport, to support massive growth in the number of passengers travelling to and from the airport," the Minister said.
"We are doing all we can to ensure Melbourne Airport is serviced by efficient and reliable transport services so that Melbourne can maintain its status as a global, vibrant and liveable city."
Mr Mulder also said the start of July marks the establishment of two new offices to deliver Victoria's key transport infrastructure projects – Melbourne Rail Link and the East West Link Western Section.
"The Moving Victoria - Roads Office and the Moving Victoria - Rail Office will be dedicated administrative offices, operating under the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure," Mr Mulder said.
"This approach builds on the successful Regional Rail Link Authority model for delivering major projects, in the context of the Coalition Government's unprecedented $24 billion transport infrastructure investment program."