Melbourne’s outer north stuck in traffic as government puts road projects on ice

Parents of students at Aitken College are frustrated at how difficult and dangerous it is to get in and out of the school’s entrance. Photo: Wayne Taylor Traffic on Mickleham Road has boomed as new housing estates have gone in north of Greenvale. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Melbourne’s outer north is missing out on a multibillion-dollar package of road upgrades meant to relieve congestion and reduce accidents in the city’s growth suburbs.

In November the Andrews government announced it would invest $1.8 billion to widen and duplicate eight of the most congested main roads in Melbourne’s west, as well as maintain the wider arterial road network for the next 25 years.

A similar package of road upgrades for the outer south-east is to follow.

But the city’s other major growth belt in the north has missed out, leaving its surging number of residents to drive on increasingly congested and crumbling roads for the indefinite future.

A leaked departmental document reveals a package of major road upgrades for the outer north was put to the Andrews government by VicRoads this year, but has been deferred indefinitely while the western and south-eastern upgrades were approved.

The communities that would have benefited are in Labor heartland territory well north of the Ring Road, in suburbs including Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park, Greenvale and Epping.

One community spokesman suggested the area would be better served if its seats were marginal.

“There definitely needs to be a push by the government to bring these roads up to standard,” Greenvale Residents Association vice president Charlie Grech said.

“There are some people that say we’re not a marginal seat so we don’t get the attention and it’s a problem, it’s a very strong Labor area and the emphasis hasn’t been put here.”

The so called northern package of outer suburban arterial road upgrades addressed some of the worst bottlenecks in the area – roads that have barely been worked on since the days when the area was entirely rural.

The package of proposed road upgrades put on hold includes:    Bridge Inn Road, between Plenty Road and Yan Yean RoadEpping Road, between Craigieburn Road and Findon RoadCraigieburn Road, between Epping Road and Mickleham RoadEdgars Road between Cooper Street and O’Hern’s RoadSomerton Road, between Mickleham Road and Pascoe Vale RoadMickleham Road, between Somerton Road and Craigieburn Road West

Funding of up to $139.4 million has been confirmed for just one road in the northern package, Plenty Road, which will be widened between McKimmies Road and Bridge Inn Road. The government is also doing a $250,000 business case for possible upgrades to a section of Craigieburn Road.

Luke Donnellan, the Minister for Roads, said Melbourne’s west was one of the fastest growing areas in Australia and the government was improving roads there to connect people to jobs and each other.

“We’re putting people first in the west by investing in projects that will create jobs, cut travel times, reduce congestion and improve safety,” he said.

The $1.8 billion western package is a public-private partnership that has been put out to market, and tender documents published in November emphasise how the increasingly poor condition of the roads in Melbourne’s outer suburbs is putting residents at risk of poverty and isolation.

“The lack of suitable high quality arterial road links is therefore reducing the attractiveness of the outer suburbs as places to live and work,” the tender documents state.

“As a result, existing and planned employment centres are failing to realise their full potential, and outer suburban communities are becoming increasingly disadvantaged.”

Aitken College principal Josie Crisara said parents of students at the school were becoming increasingly frustrated at how difficult and dangerous it was to get in and out of the college’s entrance, due to heavy traffic on the two-lane road.

The co-educational school on Mickleham Road in Greenvale has 1270 students. Traffic on Mickleham Road has boomed as new housing estates have gone in north of Greenvale.

The road has no footpaths nor bike paths, so for safety reasons students are discouraged from walking or riding.

There have been three nose-to-tail crashes on the road in the past month, Ms Crisara said.

The college has lobbied VicRoads and the government for the past five years.

“You’ve got to think about it strategically,” Ms Crisara said. “If you’re putting all these new estates in these growth corridors that’s great, but you’ve got to deal with the infrastructure. It wasn’t until a month ago that some of these new estates even got a bus. And there’s no footpaths or bike paths so people just had to use their cars.”

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