Residents angry over “secretive” local West Gate Tunnel impact projects

Residents angry over “secretive” local West Gate Tunnel impact projects
Brendan Rees

Outraged North and West Melbourne residents claim a $100 million “transport and amenity program” aimed at easing traffic impacts when the West Gate Tunnel opens is being spent in a “secretive fashion” on projects in the CBD.

The amenity scheme, a 50/50 funding model between the City of Melbourne and state government, is aimed at delivering projects to improve streetscapes, transport, and amenity of the areas expected to be affected by the West Gate Tunnel Project (WGTP), which is expected to open in late 2025.

Key projects under way in the planning stages include a masterplan for Spencer St North, a Hawke St linear park in West Melbourne, and streetscape improvements on Franklin St, including a new park which will sit above the future underground State Library Metro station.

According to the state government, some of the funds are proposed for new tram stops on William St, while a council report in March 2022 stated “projects already delivered” included bike lanes on La Trobe St, Abbotsford St, William St, and Peel St.

Other projects “delivered” from the scheme include a “connecting Docklands to North Melbourne feasibility study,” a “Victoria St opportunities plan,” and a “Peel St corridor study,” with the council also proposing to spend money on a new linear park outside the North Melbourne Town Hall.

But residents say they have been left in the dark about how the amenity scheme’s funds are being allocated and spent, while not addressing the real issues that the WGTP will create for the community.

North and West Melbourne Association secretary and former Lord Mayor Kevin Chamberlin said, “The only thing that everybody seems to agree on is that when the West Gate Tunnel opens, the movement of traffic and volumes are unclear.”

As reported in sibling publication Docklands News in 2017, the project’s original traffic modelling forecasted that the extension between Dynon Rd and Wurundjeri Way would carry up to 19,000 vehicles per day.

Wurundjeri Way, which is getting an extra lane in each direction, is predicted to carry up to 16,000 vehicles per day by 2031, but the government says the extension will take 5000 cars a day from Spencer and King streets.

The City of Melbourne openly opposed the West Gate Tunnel Project when it was originally announced by the state government due to the significant influx of additional vehicles it will bring into the city.

When the transport and amenity program (TAP) was originally negotiated in 2018, then Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood told Docklands News that despite a shared commitment on TAP, it “fundamentally” disagreed with the state government on the WGTP.

“We have a shared commitment to these projects [TAP], while acknowledging disagreement on the project fundamentally. They are acknowledging that we don’t support the project, but they are coming to the party on mitigating some of those impacts,” Cr Wood said.

But Mr Chamberlin told North West City News this month that “the community was led to believe the money was only to be spent when the tunnel was open and the issues identified.”


To find that the council and the government are planning to spend some of it in the CBD is an absolute betrayal of the community of North Melbourne, West Melbourne and Kensington.


“If the council thinks it’s such as great idea [to fund projects in the CBD through the amenity scheme] why are they doing it in an underhand way?”

He added that because of the uncertainty of the traffic being pumped into the local area, “it’s not very smart of the council and government’s transport department to be proposing to spend this money in this secretive fashion”.

Mr Chamberlin also noted that projects like the Hawke St linear park and the small extension to the Roden St greening area should be funded out of developer contributions for open space and recreation, not “trying to sneak money out of the transport and amenity program for this sort of work”.



According to a council report in 2022, stakeholder and community engagement was “undertaken on a project-by-project basis,” and “council is working with DTP (Department of Transport and Planning) on a joint communications strategy, with a view to releasing information about the program objectives and key projects in 2022”, which residents say they have never seen.

The City of Melbourne did not respond to questions about how much of the transport and amenity program had been spent or what other future projects had been proposed or how they were chosen.

Instead, City of Melbourne Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the council would engage the community, stakeholders, and traditional owners on project proposals “to secure positive outcomes for local residents, businesses and visitors impacted by the Victorian Government’s West Gate Tunnel Project”.

“Design works are well under way for streetscape improvements and a new linear park on Hawke St. Upgrades will include a significant amount of new green space along with traffic calming measures.”

“As drivers opt to use the tunnel, we’re looking at opportunities for the future of Spencer St, North Melbourne. One option I am keen on is to make it into a pedestrian-friendly area like Lygon or Errol streets – bringing more visitors and business to the area.”

But West Melbourne resident Mary Masters said the community wanted “good safety outcomes” to mitigate huge amounts of traffic when the tunnel opened.

“We are yet to hear from any government stakeholders about how the transport and amenity funding will deliver good outcomes for Docklands, West Melbourne and North Melbourne or evidence of traffic modelling or community consultation that points to what amenity improvements are needed,” she said, adding residents had the right to feel “cheated”.

RMIT University’s emeritus professor of environment and planning Michael Buxton said he predicted “very large volumes of vehicles” would be pumped into North and West Melbourne, which was “a classic example of a freeway dumping traffic onto congested conventional streets that are separated from another freeway”.

“Why dump traffic on the streets and then try and improve the amenity of those streets? I mean they’re contradictory aims,” he told North West City News.

​“It strongly indicates that nobody’s in charge. Nobody seems to have a proper strategic overview of the relationship between traffic movements and amenity at all.”

The community had its say on Hawke St and proposed Franklin St projects, with a consultation summary published on the council’s Participate Melbourne website.

A Victorian Government spokesperson said, “We’re working with the City of Melbourne to finalise where the remainder of the transport and amenity program fund will be spent to ensure we deliver transport improvements to the communities of North and West Melbourne.” •

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