The business case for the North East Link is yet to be finalised but early cost estimates range up to AU$16.5bn (£9.4bn) – the single biggest transport infrastructure investment in the history of the state of Victoria. The project is expected to create around 10,000 jobs.
Detailed design will now get under way and the business case, including finalising cost estimates, will be publicly released ahead of the state budget for 2018/19. Procurement and planning approval processes will also begin in next year, with the preferred builder due to be selected in 2019 ready for major construction to start in 2020.
Victoria premier Daniel Andrews said: “People have been talking about connecting the Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway for decades but it’s always been put in the too hard basket – not anymore.”
Minister for roads and road safety Luke Donnellan added: “The North East Link will take 15,000 trucks off local roads, create thousands of jobs and deliver massive travel time savings for drivers.” Travel times between Melbourne’s north and south are expected to be cut by up to 30 minutes in each direction by the North East Link, bringing time savings for people travelling to Melbourne Airport from the south and east.
The route will begin on the Eastern Freeway at Springvale Road, where the capacity of the Eastern will be doubled with six extra dedicated lanes to eliminate some of eastern Melbourne’s worst bottlenecks.
Heading west, the road will connect to a new six lane tunnel at Bulleen with local underground connections at Banksia Street and Manningham Road. The 5km-long tunnel will then travel deep beneath the Yarra River, protecting environmentally sensitive parkland and residential areas.
There will be a local connection at Lower Plenty Road, with the North East Link then running north alongside the existing Greensborough Highway, which will stay 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.