THE Andrews Government has unveiled four options for North East Link with one route costing up to $23 billion.
The proposed routes for the toll road will link Melbourne’s M80 Ring Rd to the Eastern Freeway or EastLink.
— AN outer northeast option going 40km from the M80 to EastLink via the proposed Healesville Freeway Reserve, and coming back in near Eltham-Yarra Glen Rd and Kangaroo Ground-Wattle Glen Rd, with about 40 per cent of it a tunnel.
The first option is the most direct route and early estimates suggest it would cost about $6.1 billion.
The second option, which will have a tunnel for about 17km, could cost up to $19.1 billion, while the third option could cost about $16.9 billion.
It is understood the last option is not favoured by planners. It could cost up to $23.2 billion but would likely deliver the least benefits in terms of getting traffic off busy roads including Rosanna Rd in Heidelberg.
But according to some estimates the last option could be cheaper than $23.2 billion as it would involve going through less built-up areas.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the North East Link was the top road priority for Victoria.
“We are going to get this right, we are going to get it done, we are going to ease congestion on local roads and indeed right across the city,” Mr Andrews said.
He said it was too early to discuss costings, but flagged he wanted a project under $10 billion.
“It’s a bit too early to be talking about final cost,” Mr Andrews said.
“No-one is in a position to answer detailed questions about costs. There will be a time.”
All options will involve some property acquisitions, crossing the Yarra River and upgrades of existing roads.
It is expected 100,000 vehicles a day will use the toll road and the authority building it — the North East Link Authority — want to choose the option which has the best chance of achieving this target.
The project is aimed at slashing congestion in Melbourne’s northeast and is expected to create more than 5,000 new jobs during construction.
Northern Labor MPs Anthony Carbines, Vicki Ward and Danielle Green declined to say which corridor options they preferred and said the community would be key in making the decision.
Mr Andrews defended having a different consultation process to what is being carried out to the West Gate Tunnel Project.
The premier said the route for the West Gate Tunnel presented by Transurban ticked all boxes.
He also said he would not sign contracts on the eve of the election — as the former government had for the dumped East West Link — and would take it to the 2018 election “to let people say if they want this project or not”.
But a Melbourne council has warned the proposed routes could cost taxpayers billions and should be dumped.
Nillumbik mayor Peter Clarke said at least two were “obviously not viable”.
Northern suburbs councils including Nillumbik, Banyule and Manningham will meet with the North East Link Authority today for an update.
Mr Clarke said one of the longer routes joining the EastLink in Ringwood to the Ring Rd through Melbourne’s outer-east, via Chirnside Park and Kangaroo Ground, was expected to be too costly.
“This project has been in discussion for many years and with the first 50 drill holes completed we call on the state government to only progress to the next stage with the two most obvious and viable routes,” Mr Clarke said.
Rather than wasting it on routes that would not be built money should be spent on addressing congestion during construction over the next decade, Mr Clarke said.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the government could not be trusted on project costs following the dumping of the East West Link.
“Building the North East Link will simply put more traffic on to the Eastern Freeway and increase the necessity to build the East West Link,” Mr Guy said.
“The Andrews government has talked a lot about this project, but they are still yet to mention a word as to how it will be paid.”
Mr Guy said building the North East Link was “common sense” but said the fourth option announced was “bizarre”.
“Before I commit to an option myself I want to see all the details and costings. If the Premier doesn’t know costings how to we now they are actually going to do it?
“A connection between the Eastern Freeway and the ring road is needed. In terms of the four route options the government released today, lets see some detail and have a debate.”
“But you can’t have an answer for the North East if you do not have an answer for the end of the Eastern.”
“How can Victorians take Daniel Andrews seriously for the North East Link when he scrapped the East West Link for $1.2 billion.”
A business case will be prepared after a preferred route is selected later this year.