Melbourne is bracing for gridlock on Monday after Hoddle Street was closed for an eight-day construction ‘blitz’.
Commuters were warned to expect one-hour delays after the state’s biggest arterial road was closed between the Eastern Freeway and Victoria Parade.
Premier Daniel Andrews said it was “the construction equivalent of ripping off a bandaid”, but an urban planning expert told The New Daily it was more like a bandaid solution.
Locals complained of delays shortly after the closure was put in place on Sunday, as motorists were diverted down Wellington Street.
“Hoddle Street closure means Wellington is crawling. Gonna be a nightmare [tomorrow],” Jess Lilley wrote on Twitter.
“Sunday afternoon, and my street and all around packed with cars because Hoddle Street is closed while @VicRoads widen the freeway entry. Why couldn’t it be done last week, when no one was on the roads?” Jennifer Mitchell wrote on Twitter.
Traffic is expected to worsen during peak hour on Monday morning as commuters return to work for the year.
Buses will continue running along Hoddle Street, but will also face delays of up to one hour. Surrounding routes between Kew and the CBD will also be affected by congestion, Public Transport Victoria said.
Crystal Legacy, a senior lecturer of urban planning at the University of Melbourne, said the upgrade was unlikely to unlock congestion.
“When you put these changes forward, we also have to understand that these changes alone will just increase car dependency and the problems will still be there in a couple of months time as people decide to choose the car rather than an alternative mode,” Dr Legacy told The New Daily.
It was more likely to be a ploy to win votes at the state election later this year than a genuine fix, she said.
Coming up to an election year, the government wants to be perceived as a ‘can-do government’ …
“The government probably sees this as part of a medium- and short-term political game in terms of what they might be able to win in terms of the ballot box come November 2018.”
Dr Legacy said the upgrade should fit within a wider efficient and sustainable transport network.
She suggested increasing the number of buses on surrounding routes, and said there should be a bus transit lane on Hoddle Street.
“I think that would be kind of a low-hanging fruit solution, if the government was prepared to do it.”
What does the state government say?
The Labor government said it opted for the eight-day ‘blitz’ of construction – rather than staggering it over three months – to take advantage of the quieter holiday period.
Mr Andrews compared it to ripping off a bandaid, but apologised for the delays.
They’re cutting down the trees in Hoddle St
Posted by Stephen Emery on Saturday, January 6, 2018
“I’m not sugarcoating it. It’s going to be annoying and frustrating and I apologise in advance. But once we’re done, it’ll all be worth it,” he said on social media.
More than 100 construction workers will be working around the clock to strengthen the bridge over the Eastern Freeway. They’ll also be adding a third lane on Hoddle Street to the freeway entry.
The project is slated to deliver more green time at traffic lights and shorter queues along the notorious stretch of road.
Businesses will remain open until the closure is lifted at 11.30pm next Sunday.
Billy’s Pizza Joint, which is within the exclusion zone, advised its customers there could be delays through the week.
Writing on Facebook, the restaurant said it was a “short term inconvenience for long term gain”.
Traffic will also likely be backed up next Sunday, the final day of the closure, during the one-day international cricket match at the MCG.
Disruptions on Hoddle Street will continue throughout the year, VicRoads said.