Greater density, road pricing and more investment in social and affordable housing are among critical priorities for Victoria moving forward, according to a draft version of a new plan for the states infrastructure.
Unveiling the draft version of its 30-year strategy involving 134 recommendations to be delivered over the short, medium and long term, Infrastructure Victoria suggests that the state’s most important efforts should revolve around three critical areas.
First, it says the state should look toward greater density and development within established metropolitan and regional areas including Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
Speaking of Melbourne in particular, it says planning schemes should be changed to encourage development in and around the outer east and especially around train stations on the Belgrave, Lilydale, Glen Waverley, Alamein, Frankston, Sandringham, Cranbourne and Pakenham lines which it says will not reach capacity at any stage over the next thirty years.
Second, Infrastructure Victoria suggests that Melbourne should adopt a road congestion charge for travel on critical and highly congested motorways during peak travel times.
Whilst acknowledging that care must be taken with regard to such a system’s design, the report says a good system with a strong price signal would help to ease congestion by encouraging both travel outside of peak times and non-road forms of commuting.
It says Infrastructure Victoria is working on a pricing scheme which would be equitable and would balance multiple objectives.
Finally, it recommends that steps be made to improve housing affordability for those in disadvantaged or vulnerable circumstances.
This includes by extending housing rental assistance, beefing up investment in and refurbishing public housing, providing a fast-track approvals process for affordable housing, investigating planning initiatives such as inclusionary zoning, developing a strategic plan for affordable housing and expanding access to crisis accommodation.
In terms of projects, the report recommended priority be given to the North East Link proposal linking the Metropolitan Ring Road in Greensborough to the Eastern Freeway and the Outer Metropolitan Ring Road connecting the Hume Freeway at Kalkallo in Melbourne’s north to the Princes Highway south west of Werribee.
It said a cost benefit analysis had found that both projects delivered superior returns relative to a link between the Eastern Freeway to CityLink – the first part of the former government’s now abandoned East West Link project.
Whereas both of the former projects had benefit-cost ratios of between 1.4 and 2.1, the ratio for the latter was between 0.7 and 0.9.
Accordingly, whilst the strategy recommended planning to ensure that an Eastern Freeway to CityLink connection could be provided in the future, it said both of the other projects were found to have advantages in terms of improving access to middle and outer suburbs as well as improving freight efficiency over the longer term.
“We’ve weighed up all the evidence, and while many projects have merit, it is clear that North East Link is the priority road project,” Infrastructure Victoria Chief Executive Michel Masson said.
Consultation on the draft strategy will close on October 31.