A budget for roads

The Federal Budget came out last week following hot on the heels of the Victorian State Budget and then the final Plan Melbourne made an appearance.

In the Federal Budget, infrastructure in the form of roads lay heavy on the agenda. Major road projects marked for funding included Sydney’s WestConnex, Melbourne’s East-West Link, Adelaide’s North South Corridor, NT road upgrades, the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, and the Perth Freight Link.

More information can be found here.

As for the State Budget there is a focus on three new major infrastructure projects; a new city rail tunnel, a rail link to the airport and the second stage east-west link. Of these projects it is the east-west link that is expected to receive a contribution from the federal government.

In contrast the Feds have decided it is the responsibility of the state to fund public transport projects and as a response the new city rail tunnel proposal is a pared back version of previous proposals. Are these rail projects the right projects? Do we need a rail link to the airport when an improved bus system could do the same job? Shouldn’t it be a focus on greater extension of the city loop and more lateral connections across the city which would relieve city congestion?

More information can be found here.

So why the focus on roads?

It seems that infrastructure in Australian cities has been neglected since the early to mid 2000s courtesy of the Howard-Costello Coalition government and a failure of the Rudd labour government to finance ambitious infrastructure plans during the economic crisis. However, it is disappointing that the solution of more roads, roads and roads (a somewhat failed 1950s doctrine) has formed the solutions of our 2014 governments.

As Phillip O'Neill, Professorial Research Fellow, Urban Research Centre at University of Western Sydney says “Rather than address the complex issues of infrastructure provision with innovative solutions, this budget seems to adopt a simple formula: lean heavily on existing revenue streams in order to lever funds into road building, the easiest of all infrastructure assets to provide”.

Correct me if I’m wrong but more roads = more cars = more congestion + dependency on fuel =unsustainable futures. Whereas increased public transport investment would give an alternative to cars which would relieve congestion and provide long term sustainable transport options.

Melbourne more than any other city in Australia is experiencing massive population growth (I should know I’m one of those who arrived two years ago from Ireland).

According to the Guardian, “As of June 2013, greater Melbourne had a population of 4.35m…Melbourne has been growing faster than Sydney over the past decade, according to the ABS, and is set to become Australia’s most populous city in 2053, with 8m people.”

Plan Melbourne proposes that these people will be accommodated in the city through development of underutilised sites within the inner and middle ring suburbs, increasing housing densities calling a halt to further sprawl into the countryside. Higher density cities will increase demand for transport solutions and more cars will simply not be able to fit in the city centre. To make Melbourne’s future viable we need public transport options, so it’s disappointing not to see these also considered in the federal budget.

In a final argument for more sustainable transport options let us think back to the 80’s when Australian cult classic Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) hit the big screen. Set in a post-apocalyptic land (somewhere out near Broken Hill in Outback NSW) where fuel has run out and survivors turn on each other fighting over food, water and petrol. When cities have collapsed and where hero Mad Max drives on the never ending abandoned highways of destroyed cities… If Max could save us now…


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