Victoria's Labor government has committed to building the $10 billion North East Link freeway if it wins the next state election in 2018.
The so-called “missing link” would complete the Metropolitan Ring Road by connecting the ring road to either the Eastern Freeway or EastLink.
Some $35 million will be spent on planning, route selection and environmental impact studies in 2017.
Tendering will then occur in 2018, but the Andrews government won’t sign any contracts before the election in November.
If Labor wins, however, construction would start in 2019, Premier Daniel Andrews vowed on Sunday.
“All points of the compass will be joined up properly by building a piece of road that’s been talked about for the best part of 50 years,” he told reporters.
Once the missing link is built, motorists will be able to drive from Ringwood to Tullamarine without stopping at a single traffic light.
The project will take 10 years to complete and create at least 5000 jobs, the governments says.
The state would make a contribution to the cost but Mr Andrews acknowledges the link “will be a toll road”.
There’s likely to be opposition from environmental groups given the link will pass through Melbourne’s so-called “green wedge”.
But the premier on Sunday insisted: “Victorians didn’t elect me and my team to duck the tough issues – they elected us to get things done.”
“There’ll be proper consultation absolutely … to listen to the community and industry,” Mr Andrews added.
Preliminary work will be led by a new North East Link Authority.
The RACV backed Sunday’s announcement as did the Victorian Transport Association and the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The state opposition simply said “talk is cheap”.
“Let’s wait and see what he actually delivers,” opposition roads spokesman Ryan Smith told reporters.
Labor scrapped the former coalition government’s plans to build a controversial East West Link tunnel under the city’s inner north after it won the 2014 election.
Ripping up the contract signed by Denis Napthine in the last days of his government has cost Victorian taxpayers $1.2 billion to date.