THE Victorian Government this week called for expressions of interest to build the first stage of the $500 million West Gate Distributor, which aims to remove trucks from the West Gate Bridge and local roads by providing a direct route between the Port of Melbourne and the West Gate Freeway.
The $40 million first stage includes the widening of Moreland Street, installation of a new signalised intersection at Footscray Road and Moreland Street and the widening and strengthening of the Shepherd Bridge over the Maribyrnong River to allow for additional lanes.
The upgrades to Shepherd Bridge and Footscray Road are expected to remove bottlenecks and increase the flow of traffic and the efficiency of freight. The upgrades will also include the construction of dedicated lanes for cyclists.
Future stages of the project include an upgrade and duplication of Whitehall Street between Francis Street and Somerville Road West, West Gate Freeway on-and-off ramps and an elevated road along Hyde Street, Yarraville.
The West Gate Distributor was one of the projects outlined by Victorian Labor in its 'Project 10,000' plan, which was released by the party in November 2013. Other projects contained in the plan include the removal of 50 level crossings, the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, improvements to Hoddle Street and upgrades to suburban and regional roads.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the project will take will take 5,000 trucks off the West Gate Bridge every day. "Building the West Gate Distributor and removing 50 of our most dangerous and congested level crossings will make it easier for Victorians to get to work every morning," he added.
According to the government, over the next 20 years, the number of commercial vehicles travelling on the West Gate Bridge is expected to double and the number of truck visits to Swanson Dock is expected to increase to 12,000 each day.
Shortlisted contractors for the first stage of the West Gate Distributor are due to take part in a Request for Tenders process in May and the contract is expected to be awarded mid-year, with construction to start by the end of the year. Planning and investigations are under way for the remaining stages of works.
Image: Map of proposed West Gate Distributor - Northern Section (Stage 1) / VicRoads.