East West Link (EWL)

  Current view of Moonee Ponds Creek from Arden Street.

Current view of Moonee Ponds Creek from Arden Street.

By Dr Darragh O'Brien, Architect, Researcher and President of IMPA

IMPA addressed the East West Link Project Committee on 1st April 2014. We argued that the current Comprehensive Impact Statement (CIS) for the East West Link Project is often understated or potentially misleading about the actual impact of this project on public health, amenity and environment and the projected freight traffic levels and air quality levels are disputed. In this context, we provided medical evidence of the long-term, negative impact that diesel particulates can have on the health of the local population. We argued that a   decision of this nature cannot be taken lightly, however it appears that tenders have already been called for interested contractors.

Given these facts and the significant levels of investment required to complete the East-West Link Project, IMPA sought an extension of the review period and the establishment of an independent panel to review the feasibility of the project. The purpose of the panel would be to:

1.       Assess the priority level of the EWL against all other transport initiatives recommended in the Eddington Report (2008).

2.       Produce an unbiased and accurate Comprehensive Impact Statement (CIS).

  Artists Impression of the proposed EWL Port Connection viewed from Arden Street.

Artists Impression of the proposed EWL Port Connection viewed from Arden Street.

Our primary concerns about the impact of the EWL are summarized under the following headings:

1.   Transport connectivity – to improve road based transport connectivity between the east of Melbourne and the Port of Melbourne and the wider metropolitan region and the State, while maintaining the connectivity of existing local transport routes.

  • The negative impact on future public transport initiatives is understated in the CIS, not only in terms of the consumption of public capital but also the consumption of land for potential rail corridors.
  • The data basis for predicted traffic modelling is inconsistent and unclear.

2.   Land use, dwellings and infrastructure - to minimise adverse impacts and achieve appropriate integration with adjoining land uses, including by minimising displacement of existing land use activities, dwellings and infrastructure.

  • Highly affected areas will include the playing fields of Ross Straw Field, the Moonee Ponds Creek Wetlands and the dwellings adjoining the Stage 2 connection to the Port of Melbourne. The negative impact on existing land use has not been fully recognised in the CIS, nor have any clear offset measures been proposed or secured.

3.   Visual amenity – to minimise adverse impacts on the quality of the existing built environment and landscape,     including public open space, and maximise the enhancement of public amenity where opportunities exist

  • The Urban Design Framework (appendix C) is inadequate and potentially misleading. The framework is presented as a set of rough guidelines that may not “represent the design ultimately adopted for the project”. Images contained within this section portray costly urban design initiatives while the framework itself cannot secure this level of quality.

4.   Noise, vibration, air emissions and light spill – to minimise adverse impacts from noise, vibration, air emissions and light spill.

  • The negative health impact of airborne diesel particulates is fully supported by current research. There are discrepancies in the CIS between air quality predictions and those currently measured by the EPA at Hoddle Street and Footscray. The consequences of a significant increase in freight traffic, particularly in the stage 2 connection from the tunnel to the Port of Melbourne, demand that a rigorous, independent analysis of potential health implications be undertaken.

7.   Native vegetation and biodiversity – to maintain the values of remnant native vegetation and associated biodiversity.

  • The impact on natural ecosystems, particularly around the Moonee Ponds Creek and Royal Park Area, has been significantly understated in the CIS. For example, sections 2.8 and 7.3.7 of Appendix C recognise the current value of the Moonee Ponds wetland ecosystem as the only green space in the Arden Macaulay Urban Renewal Plan, but they do not address the significant negative impact that four lanes of elevated road will have on that ecosystem. The parkland will cease to exist.

9.   Environmental management framework – to provide a transparent, effective and accountable framework for managing risk in order to achieve acceptable environmental outcomes and sustain stakeholder confidence during the construction and operational phases.

  •  There is no certainty in the CIS around essential mitigation measures that will be required where the EWL has a negative impact on local amenity and environment.