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Dump West Gate Tunnel, Vic experts urge

 

Experts say Melbourne's $5.5 billion West Gate Tunnel toll road risks making traffic congestion even worse, but the state government will not be dumping it.

A University of Melbourne and RMIT report says the road represents a "regrettable retreat" from decades of planning strategies prioritising public transport over roads and Victorians should be given a chance to vote on the road.

"Few cities in western countries continue to build motorways that bring car-based traffic into the inner city; Melbourne appears to be the exception," the experts said in a letter to Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday

The West Gate Tunnel will be built in partnership with Transurban, stretching from Yarraville to West Melbourne, providing an extra route from the rapidly-growing western suburbs.

The report argues the road's benefits have been overstated and will simply push more people living farther out into cars, which risks worsening traffic congestion.

The academics argue the tunnel project should be scaled back to the original $500 million West Gate Distributor, promised in 2014 by the Labor Party as a way to get trucks off the West Gate Bridge and directly into the Port of Melbourne.

But the Andrews government says the road has been comprehensively researched and plans won't be scrapped.

"The evidence is clear. The West Gate Tunnel will take thousands of trucks off local roads in the inner west, slash congestion on the M1 corridor and create more than 6000 Victorian jobs," Roads Minister Luke Donellan said in a statement.

"Academics can pontificate on a future without roads, but ask anyone stuck in traffic on the West Gate or the Monash, ask anyone who lives in the outer west, ask anyone driving a truck down roads never designed for freight - they'll tell you that this project is urgently needed."

The report was released the same day a Galaxy Poll of 828 voters published by the Herald Sun showed 58 per cent of respondents wanted the dumped East West Link built.

The Labor government came to power in 2014 on the promise of ripping up a contract for the East West Link, which it did at a cost of $1.2 billion.

The opposition has suggested reviving the project, saying the government's North East Link tunnel will not properly resolve traffic flow without it.