| Freeway (Proposed)|
| 5 km (3.1 mi)|
| West Gate Freeway (M1)
CityLink (M2/State Route 43)
The Western Distributor is a proposed 5 kilometre toll road in Melbourne, Australia, to link the West Gate Freeway at Yarraville with CityLink at Docklands via a tunnel beneath Yarraville. The $5.5 billion project was proposed by infrastructure company Transurban in 2014 as a means of alleviating congestion on the M1 corridor, providing a new river crossing as an alternative to the West Gate Bridge and moving trucks away from homes in the city's inner west. The freeway-standard link would include a 1.5 km-long, six-lane tunnel and a new bridge over the Maribyrnong River. The Victorian government announced in December 2015 it would proceed with the project. Construction of the tunnel and elevated tollway is scheduled to begin by the end of 2017 and be completed by 2022.
A change to part of the plans, in which off-ramps over a reserve would replace a section of tunnel, has sparked criticism of the project.
Western Distributor (Melbourne) Wikipedia
The project was presented to then Victorian Labor opposition in 2014 as an unsolicited proposal by Transurban, and kept secret until a public announcement by the Labor government in March 2015. Transurban offered to pay two-thirds of the cost of construction in exchange for a 10 to 15-year extension of its CityLink toll contract. The remainder of the cost would be borne by federal funds.
The Victorian government began assessing the proposal in March 2015 and announced in December that it would proceed. It said it would contribute $400 million of state funds and has proposed seeking funds previously committed by the federal government to the abandoned East West Link project. The road project was proposed as an alternative to the government's $680 million West Gate Distributor, which in turn was designed to replace the western section of the East West Link.
The proposed route has undergone some modification since plans were first released. The current plan is for eastbound traffic using the Western Distributor to exit the West Gate Freeway via an off-ramp near Williamstown Road, then enter the tunnel whose entrance would be on industrial land to the north of the freeway. Vehicles would emerge from the tunnel near Whitehall Street in Yarraville, then ascend to a new bridge over the Maribyrnong River and on to road elevated above Footscray Road, from where they would gain access to Swanson Dock at the Port of Melbourne, CityLink and the CBD via Docklands. A new link between the Western Distributor and Hyde Street would allow placarded trucks carrying dangerous loads such as fuel to directly access the freeway network for either eastbound or westbound travel rather than use local streets.
Under the original plans for the project, the tunnel's western portal was in the centre of the freeway, west of Williamstown Road. In September 2015 Transurban released a modified plan, which it said was the result of public consultation, that moved the tunnel portal to a site near Stony Point Reserve, north of the freeway and between Hyde and Beverley streets. The move, which would result in the tunnel length being reduced by between 500 metres and 1 km, has attracted criticism over the likelihood of additional noise, pollution and visual impact from the use of twin off-ramps connecting the portal to the freeway. The ramps and portal would be within 100 metres of Yarraville homes. Critics claim the proposed new location of the tunnel portal would result in the loss of part of the reserve and the creation of a "spaghetti junction" of overhead freeway ramps. A new community group, Concerned Locals of Yarraville, was formed and a petition started to oppose the move.
Toll fees for using the 5 km road and tunnel have been estimated at $3 for cars and $13 for trucks, but Transurban says it may exempt trucks carrying dangerous placarded goods as an incentive to remove those trucks from local streets.
The state government submitted the business case to Infrastructure Australia and the federal government in early December 2015 with a plea for commonwealth funding. It announced the project will also include the widening of the West Gate Freeway from eight to 12 lanes between the M80 Ring Road and Williamstown Road and a $400 million widening of the Monash Freeway. In April 2016 the state government said it would proceed without federal funding, instead allocating $1.4 billion to the project over four years.
Work on the project's first stage, a link to Webb Dock, was scheduled to begin in December 2015.
A 12-year extension to Transurban's tolling concession on CityLink, agreed as part of the proposed funding arrangement, has been estimated to provide Transurban with an additional $20 to $30 billion in tolling revenue.