By Bonny Burrows
Gear up construction and give it the works, demands La Trobe MP…
Federal cash is “ready and waiting” for a $1 billion upgrade of the Monash Freeway and key arterials in Melbourne’s south-east but the State Government is stalling construction, according to the Federal Member for La Trobe.
In a bid to ease the traffic roadblock that is the Monash, the Commonwealth contributed $500 million in April 2016 to the freeway’s upgrade; with the State Government to match that commitment.
However, according to the Federal Government, the State is yet to spend the cash, instead using just a small portion of the available funds on a business plan that won’t be finalised until the end of this year.
La Trobe MP Jason Wood has blasted the delay as a strategic plan by the State Government to co-incide the competition of stage two with next year’s election so it could claim responsibility.
“They initially called the widening of the Monash a ‘bird-brained idea’ and now they want to deliver the project in dribs and drabs to suit their political agenda of delivering something by the next State Government election, but the problem is that ‘something’ isn’t looking at the whole problem for us locally,” Mr Wood said.
His main concern was that the State’s own upgrades, which he has described as a “half-baked version” of the Commonwealth’s, would hinder, rather than help congestion.
The State Government is currently widening the freeway from four to five lanes each way between the EastLink interchange and South Gippsland Highway, and from two to three lanes in both directions through to Clyde Road, Berwick.
Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said 200,000 people used the Monash each day and estimated a 10-minute reduction in travel times during peak periods as well as a 20 per cent decrease in serious crashes once works were complete in 2018.
However, Mr Wood believed these upgrades would further increase the bottleneck and delays.
He instead wanted to see the extension of O’Shea Road to a complete Beaconsfield interchange on the Princes Freeway as well as the widening of the Monash from Warrigal to Cardinia roads, all of which was budgeted for in the Federal Government’s contribution.
The State Government needed to stop “dragging its feet”, he said, arguing that a “real solution” was “urgently needed now”.
“Local residents are frustrated that they won’t take the $500 million that’s sitting on the table and actually do the works from Warrigal Road to Clyde Road, complete the Beaconsfield Exchange and extend O’Shea Road properly,” Mr Wood said.
“I’m sick of it, and I know our community is sick of it too – enough of the attempts at political point scoring and just give us the solution that’s sitting right in front of us.”
Mr Donnellan said the State Government wanted to get on with stage two “as quickly as possible, but we’re going to make sure that we find the right solution to cut congestion on the Monash”.