The federal government will allocate $1.5 billion to fast-track the second stage of Melbourne’s East West link road project.
The commitment comes on top of $1.5 billion of federal funds already allocated for the first stage of the $8 billion project.
The money, together with further funds to be detailed in the Victorian budget, will enable the completion of the road project, according to a joint statement by the Victorian and federal governments.
Premier Denis Napthine says it’s a fantastic result.
“In the state budget next week we will be able to announce that East West Link stage two, the western section, will be built by a coalition government here in Victoria,” Dr Napthine said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he wished to leave a legacy worthy of the title of the infrastructure prime minister.
The East West Link was a vital project to alleviate pressure on the “choke point” of Melbourne, he said.
“If we want to liberate people from the tyranny of hours and hours spent in traffic jams this is exactly what this city, this state needs,” Mr Abbott said.
He said the project would provide a permanent boost to the Victorian economy.
Dr Napthine said some land will need to be acquired for the construction of the second phase of the 18km road, but a large part of it will be in light industrial areas.
“We’ll certainly be looking to minimise private property acquisition,” he said.
Construction on the $6-8 billion eastern section of the project is expected to begin at the end of this year for completion in 2019.
Mr Abbott said East West Link stage two will be underway by the end of next year.
The 18km cross-city road connection will extend across Melbourne from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road.
It is expected to save 15 to 20 minutes for motorists travelling from Geelong to Melbourne.
About 6200 jobs are expected to be created during its construction.
The first half of the project is estimated to cost $6-$8 billion, with the bill for the second stage expected to be between $8-$10 billion.
Mr Abbott said he was very, very confident the project was a worthwhile investment.
“You shouldn’t see East West Link in isolation,” he said.
“If we’re going to be do the first half, let’s get on with things and build the second half so that we aren’t reducing the missing link, we’re eliminating the missing link.”
Dr Napthine said he was ecstatic with the federal government’s commitment.
“This is a game-changing project that will make a real difference to all Victorians and to the economy of this great state,” he said.