Cycle spiral is total spin

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By Andrew Herington

The Linking Melbourne Authority has been working overtime with its latest round of promotion for the East West Link to emphasise it as somehow “environmentally friendly”. Aware of how disastrously unpopular the East West Link has become, the LMA is belatedly trying to change the image of the project.

The massive 20-metre high Hoddle St flyover is re-badged as “The Soundwave”. The 30-metre smokestacks are now been given “living green walls” as if this reduces the toxicity of the emissions from them.

The Premier even donned a bike helmet and rode shakily for 100 metres to promote a $70 million package of bike paths that so people can ride “from the inner city all the way to Mornington”. (Why Mornington? Surely if you wanted to ride there you would head south and go along the Bayside trail?, And it’s not even a marginal seat – perhaps he meant to say Frankston.)

Although the LMA had specifically rejected the North East Bike Link proposal at the Assessment Committee hearings they were now not only embracing it as their own, but claiming the funding “had always been part of the project budget”.

The second iconic bike measure was the “Cycle Spiral” – a name that could only have been made up by Rhonda at the Nation Building Authority in the ABC satire Utopia. It got wide coverage in the media courtesy of this fetching illustration of what it would allegedly look like.

However, this view looking south omits the 8 lanes of Flemington Rd which run across the immediate foreground with a new major intersection just off the bottom right hand corner. A new divided arterial is also not depicted although it is to run beneath the Cycle Spiral and the Citylink pylons visible in the middle distance.

The following blow up of the actual design give a much better picture of where the Cycle Spiral sits. Note there is no reassuring “sound tube” in this view and still no sign of the road that runs beneath Citylink. However it does give an indication of the heavy shade and the overwhelming presence of major roads on all sides missing from the “artists impression”.

The Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, made it a condition of the planning approval that five Development Plans would be prepared to reduce the impact of different parts of the proposal “to his satisfaction” . He set up a special Advisory Committee headed by Kathy Mitchell to advise him on the new designs but its report and the Development Plans themselves have been stamped top secret.

The final design for the western portal is clearly worse than the original. The five viaducts have amazingly sprouted to seven over three levels. One of which is more than 15 metres in the air, twice the height of the existing sound barriers.

The result should surely be called The Squid for the tangled tentacles that cover the former Ross Straw Field. Each of these is a two or three lane major freeway viaduct.

There is no attempt to “bury” sections as proposed by the Melbourne City Council and the Assessment Committee. The wetlands are crossed by multiple roadways destroying their value as bird habitat.

There is no flat area to restore any sporting facilities and the passive recreation value of the parkland dominated by elevated roadways is nil. There is serious doubt that the depicted vegetation could actually re-establish itself in the micro environment that will exist beneath the viaducts.

The design is completely in breach of the urban design framework which requires that:

The designs of new road structures in Royal Park or other public open space locations are to ensure that the landscape character of the place is dominant and that visual and physical severance is minimised.

It is laughable to suggest this has been achieved. One needs to be a complete fantasist to imagine the plans as anything but a spaghetti junction of concrete, dust and noise. But the LMA managed to find an artist capable of such fantasies, rendering the lake in the middle of the above view (see main picture).

The four overpasses at three levels are depicted as an almost transparent, sky blue single bridge in the distance. It has been drawn with reassuring sound barriers which are not present in the actual designs. There is no do depiction of the 100,000 trucks and cars which will be rushing past this allegedly bucolic scene.

The fantasies didn’t stop there however. The LMA go on to claim:

Ross Straw Field will be reconfigured as an expanded wetland and water themed playground. It will include increased flora and fauna with new bird sanctuaries, recreation facilities including BBQ shelters and water themed children’s playground.

The idea that people will bring their children to play beneath the viaducts is laughable. Children don’t flock to play under the Citylink viaducts in Flemington or the Westgate freeway in South Melbourne. These are harsh cold environments, dominated by traffic noise and dust. Birds will find sanctuary elsewhere.

The LMA actually want the public to believe that this location will be a beacon of environmental perfection suited to being a training ground for future environmental scientists. They imagine (but have not funded):

...and an education centre including kiosk, interpretive information and teaching space for schools.

Exactly why schools would choose this location to educate students is a mystery. It would stand as an object lesson of how not to build roads. The “historical interpretative” signs will be able to show what used to exist and what could have been but there will be nothing to visit of any interest.

There is a massive gap between the LMA’s language and drawings and what is actually proposed. The deceptive and misleading conduct in relation to the Business case is being repeated in the misrepresentation of what the road will look like when complete. Pretty pictures cannot conceal what the East West Link will really do to the heart of Melbourne.

 

 

Andrew Herington is a former senior Brumby government adviser. He lead and represented the coalition of community groups during the Comprehensive Impact Statements (CIS) period earlier this year.

 

 

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