Melbourne's public transport system will be given a $108 million upgrade as part of the coming East West Link project, the Victorian Government has announced.
Premier Denis Napthine and roads Minister Terry Mulder said the upgrade will contribute to a massive reduction in congestion along key routes into the CBD.
The package includes a $47 million upgrade to the Doncaster Area Rapid Transit (DART) bus service, along with $29 million for tram improvements and $32 million for “urban renewal” along busy Alexandra Parade.
Upgrades to the DART - which travels along the Eastern Freeway in place of the long-proposed but never realised Doncaster Railway Line - will include a free-flowing exit and new lanes at Hoddle Street.
The Government has also promised the new bus lanes and overhauled stops will not impact on vehicle access on either side of Hoddle Street.
Work on the bus lanes is scheduled to begin this year, to be finished by 2016.
“There are some 3.8 million passenger trips on DART each year and these improvements will deliver real benefits to those passengers, reducing delays, improving travel time reliability and creating potential for additional services,” Mr Mulder said.
In all, the $6-8 billion East West Link project - which focuses on a new 18km tolled tunnel connecting the Western Suburbs with the Eastern Freeway - has promised to reduce daily congestion in Alexandra Parade by “up to” 30 percent.
Dr Napthine said that while the bulk of the project will serve motorists, all commuters will benefit.
“This will create a real difference for the 80,000 tram and 20,000 bus passengers travelling on north-south routes that cross Alexandra Parade, Victoria Parade and Brunswick Road each day and are routinely held up by traffic lights and slow-moving traffic,” Dr Napthine said.
“These changes will deliver more reliable tram travel times and greater capacity to deliver extra services on these busy tram routes.”
Renewal upgrades for Alexandra Parade will include the planting of new canopy trees, creating new open spaces for community use, and redesigning intersections along the route.
And while the busy road currently offers only very limited infrastructure for cyclists, this week’s announced budget will also see the government consult with lobby group Bicycle Network on new options.
“We will consult with Bicycle Network Victoria and council on a new dedicated bicycle path which would run along Alexandra Parade and link with the local bicycle network, the Yarra Trail and Royal Park to the Moonee Ponds Creek,” Dr Napthine said.
One proposal would see the new bicycle lanes run along the wide median strip through the centre of Alexandra Parade, which, apart from a set of car parks, is largely unused park space.
The East West Link has met with significant resistance, with regular protests occurring in and around the planned work sites.
Protesters have been fighting scheduled works that will include 16 large bore holes at sites in Fitzroy and Collingwood, used to test the underground conditions before drilling of the tunnel begins.
Council member Stephen Jolly has also highlighted the huge cost of the project as a point of issue with protesters.
"If we build this tunnel there will be no money left over for other communities in Victoria for the transport and train projects they need," Mr Jolly told News Ltd in January.
"Our fight isn't exclusive to the inner city. We're going to try and build resistance right throughout regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne."