Disruption will be the buzzword for Melbourne in 2017, as the infrastructure works planned for the city make their presence felt with major closures and delays.
The Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel is the biggest public transport project the city has seen in 35 years and the impact of construction will be just as significant.
In just a few months, City Square will be fenced off as construction machinery rolls in to begin work in the heart of the CBD.
Adding to the upheaval, the project coincides with road widening works, booming building construction and level crossing removals, including a six-week construction blitz to remove rail crossings at Blackburn Road, Blackburn, and Heatherdale Road, Mitcham, starting on Wednesday.
Minister for Transport and Major Projects Jacinta Allan said 2017 would be a “pivotal year” for infrastructure construction.
“From the beginning we have told Victorians there will be disruptions and noise due to works across the state; most people understand that inconvenience is a part of major construction,” Ms Allan said.
“There will be disruption – but it’s disruption with a purpose to build what our state needs so Victorians can get home to their loved ones safer and sooner.”
Infrastructure expert Dr Chris Hale said Melburnians were facing a “very difficult period”, with motorists affected by lane closures and pedestrians forced off footpaths.
But most importantly, he said the public transport network would come under great strain as more people turned to train and bus services to avoid road congestion.
“The problem is going to be that there simply isn’t the capacity and there hasn’t been counter measures from government to increase supply of public transport,” he said.
Summer freeway works
The Christmas holiday will come to an early end on Melbourne’s roads. A four-kilometre stretch of the Tullamarine Freeway will be closed for three days from January 5. Those travelling to the airport have been asked to plan for a 40-minute delay. The English Street Bridge in Essendon Fields will be removed, and rebuilt again, during January. Significant works are also taking place on the West Gate Freeway and Bolte Bridge.
Up until now, the Melbourne Metro has barely caused a ripple in the city, but that’s set to change in 2017 when significant sections of the CBD are shut down.
From February, two shafts are to be excavated for the CBD North station around RMIT University, forcing the total closure of the top end of Franklin Street opposite Melbourne City Baths and the eastern end of A’Beckett Street. The road closures will remain in place for five years.
Also from February, the gateway end of Swanston Street will be transformed when City Square is acquired and becomes a construction site, along with the front section of Federation Square and Port Phillip Arcade. Flinders Street will be closed to traffic for six to 12 weeks, between Elizabeth and Swanston streets, while a below-ground walkway is built between Flinders Street Station and the new CBD South station. About 30,000 cars a day will have to be diverted.
Buildings acquired for the project could also be demolished from late 2017.
St Kilda Road will remain “open” in 2017, but only just, as all but one lane of traffic is closed in each direction around the Domain tram interchange and more than 100 trees are controversially removed.
Meanwhile, in Parkville, Grattan Street will also endure short-term closures, and lane closures should be expected on Royal Parade, Flemington Road, Pelham Street, Barry Street, Leicester Street and Bouverie Street..
Trams thrown offcourse
The route 8 tram, which currently travels along Domain Road and Park Street in South Yarra, will be re-routed via Toorak Road West, while trams along Swanston Street may be affected at different times.
Rail stations closed
Level crossing removal work is set to cause the biggest headaches for rail commuters forced to travel on buses. Heatherdale Station is closed until February 6 while it’s rebuilt, Carnegie Station will close from mid-January to mid-March, and buses are replacing trains between Ringwood and Box Hill/Blackburn until February 5 on the Belgrave and Lilydale lines.
Skyscrapers take shape
Ongoing building projects around the city will see temporary lane and footpath closures. In 2017, work continues on the Australia 108 skyscraper (Melbourne’s future tallest building), the long-awaited Windsor Hotel redevelopment and the Collins Street office and apartment tower dubbed the “pantscraper” (pictured).
Queen Victoria Market modernisation
Despite persistent opposition to the project, the controversial redevelopment of the Queen Victoria Market is set to get under way in 2017, first with the construction of new customer car park on Therry Street.
Later in the year, some traders will start moving to new market sites on Queen Street, and traders in Victoria Street shops will have to relocate as constructions begins on below-ground market facilities.