The massive $16.5B North East Link road, tunnel and busway project is gearing up its planning and design investigation, raising optimism that vital bike routes will be delivered as part of the project.
In discussions with Bicycle Network it is clear that the project team has a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities for bike network improvements within in the wedge from the north and east across to the inner suburbs.
The project has a large foot print in the north east and as a consequence touches ground in numerous places where bikes routes are currently non-existent, or incomplete.
This means that roads, paths, crossings, bridges and other facilities that are impacted by the project will be upgraded for bikes.
But the opportunities go wider: the project team understands that it has an opportunity to improve connections through the region as well.
This should greatly boost connections to the La Trobe University precinct.
The fact that the project will also deliver the dedicated busway along the Eastern Freeway creates opportunities for bike connections to bus stops with Parkiteer secure bike parking, and for overcoming some of the barriers facing riders coming to the city from the east.
Full design details of what the project will deliver for bikes probably won't be known until later in the year, when the whole project will go to tender.
But as this is an election year, it is likely that the government may give us a sneak peak at some of the broader brush stroke concepts before then.
More generally, the project will connect the Ring Road to the Eastern Freeway and then to EastLink
"The North East Link will begin on the Eastern Freeway at Springvale Road where the capacity of the Eastern will be doubled with six extra dedicated lanes to eliminate some of eastern Melbourne’s worst bottlenecks”, according to the Government announcement.
"Heading west, the mega-freeway will connect to a new six lane tunnel at Bulleen with local underground connections at Banksia St and Manningham Road.
"The five kilometre-long tunnel will then travel deep beneath the Yarra River, protecting environmentally sensitive parkland and residential areas.
"There will be a local connection at Lower Plenty Road, with the North East Link then running north alongside the existing Greensborough Highway, which will stay open for local traffic.
"A new interchange will see the North East Link travel beneath Grimshaw Street in Watsonia, before seamlessly connecting to the M80 Ring Road at Greensborough, which is also being widened,” the Government said.