THE Victorian Government last week confirmed the route for the biggest transport project in Victoria's history and the 'missing link' in Melbourne's freeway network: the North East Link.
The North East Link will begin on the Eastern Freeway at Springvale Road, where the capacity of the Eastern Freeway will be doubled with six extra dedicated lanes to bottlenecks.
Heading west, the freeway will connect to a new six-lane tunnel at Bulleen, with local underground connections at Banksia St and Manningham Road. The five-kilometre-long tunnel will then travel deep beneath the Yarra River to protect environmentally sensitive parkland and residential areas.
There will be a local connection at Lower Plenty Road, with the North East Link then extending north alongside the existing Greensborough Highway, which will remain open for local traffic.
A new interchange will see the North East Link travel beneath Grimshaw Street in Watsonia, before connecting to the M80 Ring Road at Greensborough, which is also being widened.
According to the government, travel times between Melbourne's north and south will be cut by up to 30 minutes in each direction. Congestion on local roads in the north eastern suburbs will also be reduced, with up to 15,000 trucks taken off local streets a day, and more than 9,000 vehicles taken off hotspots like Rosanna Road.
As part of the project, the government said it will also build Melbourne's first dedicated busway within the median of the Eastern Freeway from Doncaster Park and Ride to the Victoria Park precinct.
While the business case for North East Link is yet to be finalised, early cost estimates of the project range up to $16.5 billion. Detailed design will now get under way and the business case, including finalising cost estimates, will be publicly released ahead of the Victorian Budget 2018/19.
Procurement and planning approval processes will also begin in 2018, ahead of a preferred builder being selected in 2019, and major construction starting in 2020.