Ministerial Runaround on M80 Upgrade opportunity to extend Merri Creek Trail

The M80 Ring Road is being upgraded by Victorian Major Road Projects with the section between Edgars Road offramp and Sydney Road offramp about to be undertaken.

This is an opportunity to extend the Merri Creek shared use path that currently terminates on the north side of the M80 Road bridge across Merri Creek. Hume Council proposed in March 2018 to write to the Department of Transport for the project to include a link path on the road easment from the Merri Creek Path westwards to meet the Council controlled road that extends down from Mahoneys Road. This link path would be about 300 metres.

This path would provide a link to Campbellfield Plaza, and also provide an opportunity for a further Council path northwards to meet the Merri Creek Parklands trail at Bolind Road Reserve.

But recent email enquiries addressed to the Minister for Roads and the Minister for Major Infrastructure have resulted in a ministerial runaround with both ministerial offices referring to the other ministerial office to resolve the issue.

Bolinda Road Reserve path towards M80 and Hume Council road

Minister for Roads Jaala Pulford’s office on February 18, 2020, said “Minister Pulford appreciates you raising this topic with her, however, as this matter falls within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Transport Infrastructure I have referred your correspondence onto the Hon Jacinta Allan MP, Minister for Transport Infrastructure for their consideration.”

A May 21st, 2020 response from the Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan’s office said “As the matter raised falls within the portfolio responsibilities of the Hon Jaala Pulford MP, Minister for Roads we are forwarding the correspondence for consideration.”

Read the full Ministerial responses:

So what is at stake in the $518 million road improvement project?

Hume Council asked for a 300 metre path built along the road easment as part of the project connecting the Merri Creek Trail to the Council Road off Mahoneys Road. Here is a satellite map showing the work required and below, the M80 Upgrade map of project works which fails to even indicate the Merri Creek Trail on the map.

A preferred link option of a bike path following Merri creek, is awaiting resolution of the old Pipeworks/Ikea site. There does not appear to be any development of this site in the short to medium term, hence Hume Council advocacy for option 2 of a link path following the road reservation.

Google Satelite image of the Merri Creek Trail and prospective 300m link path
M80 Upgrade map coutesy Major Road Projects

Questions on the M80 Upgrade

The Questions raised by Sustainable Transport campaigner John Englart in his email queries to both Ministers:

“Will the Edgar’s Rd to Sydney Rd upgrade of the M80 ring road include extending the Merri Creek shared use Bike Path where it stops under the M80 bridge over Merri Creek, to the existing Council local road extension of Mahoneys Road?”

Can you advise whether VicRoads is doing this bike path work along the M80 easment as part of this project? If not, why not?

Englart rang the Major Road Projects hotline on the morning of May 21. That afternoon he received a call back from a DoT Major Build person who advised there were no current plans to do the link path as part of the design, but it would be investigated further with the contractor.

So what became of the Council request from March 2018?

And why haven’t Bicycle Network advocated for this path link?

All Bicycle Network did in a news item is spout the project news that “the main impact on bikes will be between the Hume Freeway and Edgars Road at Thomastown” and the Western Ring Road Trail pedestrian bridge will be upgraded.

Nothing at all about extending the Merri Creek Trail, a major recreational shared use trail in Melbourne’s north.

Cycling infrastructure for major transport projects

Under the Transport Integration Act 2010 cycling infrastructure improvement should be included wherever possible as part of any major transport or roads project. This should apply to the 300 metre link path as part of this project.

Anything less is an abrogation of state government transport infrastructure policy as contained in the Victorian Cycling Strategy 2018-2028, a Department of Transport Policy document. This policy document says clearly:

“1.7 Incorporate new cycling infrastructure in major transport projects
Major transport projects offer a valuable opportunity to improve strategic cycling corridors.
This is because planning and building high-quality cycling infrastructure as part of a new project is less-disruptive and lower-cost than retrofitting it into an existing development.
All major transport projects currently being planned and built such as the Level Crossing Removal Project and the West Gate Tunnel Project include substantial new and upgraded cycling infrastructure, including infrastructure to fill gaps in the strategic cycling corridor network.
The Victorian Government will continue to require high-quality cycling infrastructure as part of major transport projects. Government policy requires the needs of cyclists to be considered early in the scoping stage of transport projects, including connections cyclists may need to make outside the project area.”

Hume Council decision to request cycle link path as part of M80 Upgrade

Hume Council Meeting on 13 March 2018 (see minutes) authorised a letter to VicRoads for this path build to occur as part of this project.

JAC013 MERRI CREEK TO CAMPBELLFIELD SHOPPING CENTRE BIKE PATH
Councillor Jodi Jackson Moved Cr Jodi Jackson, Seconded Cr Drew Jessop
That Council write to VicRoads requesting that a bike path along the existing road reserve to connect the current end of the Merri Creek Trail to the existing path network to the west that will deliver a continuous connection to the Campbellfield Shopping Centre as part the upcoming M80 upgrade works.

Cr Jack Medcraft left the meeting after the motion was moved on JAC013, the time being 9:09pm, and returned to the meeting prior to the vote on the item, the time being 9:12pm.
CARRIED

Hume Council map showing plans for extending the Merri Creek trail to Bolinda Road Reserve

Link path would improve access for parklands promised by Dan Andrews before 2018 state election

This extension is also important to Hume Council and Victorian Government for cycling access from the south for the Upper Merri Park. See election promise in 2018

The Merri Creek Link Path extension to the Council controlled road is important for furthering the connection and access from the south to the Merri Creek Parklands and promised Upper Merri Park. The Andrews Government made an election commitment prior to the 2018 state election for Creating a Ring of new parkland in our growing suburbs. This included in Melbourne’s north a new 2,778 hectare Upper Merri Park, near Craigieburn and invest in new bike and walking trails across Nillumbik, Moreland, Banyule, Darebin, Hume and Whittlesea council areas.

Local Broadmeadows MP Frank McGuire didn’t even bother responding to a constituent request made on 17 February 2020 in regard to a link path as part of the M80 upgrade project..

References:

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