Upgrades to Melbourne's West Gate Bridge have led to a quicker and less frustrating commute to and from the CBD, Federal Infrastructure Minister Tony Albanese claims.
The improvements, completed in June, added a fifth lane to the inbound and outbound sides of the bridge. The upgrade saw the project recognised in the Victorian Engineers Australia 2011 Excellence Awards.
"While awards are not the aim of our infrastructure investment, they signal that we are on the right track in delivering infrastructure for Australia," Mr Albanese said.
Victorian Roads Minister Terry Mulder said the upgrades have improved morning peak speeds by 111 percent, from 36km/h to 76km/h.
Afternoon peak speeds have improved 64 percent, from 44 to 72km/h. The bridge's capacity has increased by around 1000 additional vehicles during peak times.
"This has clearly proven a great benefit for Melbourne drivers, especially those making a daily trip in from the western suburbs and Geelong," Mr Mulder said.
There may be something missing from the Minister's press release. An additional 1000 vehicles during peak times would hardly have the travel-time improvements claimed, given that the West Gate carries in excess of 160,000 vehicles a day - including more than 20,000 trucks daily.
The improvements and strengthening of the structure is to lift its potential capacity to more than 250,000 vehicles a day. (Interestingly, when constructed, the 'Lower Yarra Crossing Authority' anticipated 40,000 vehicles a day.)
Both western and eastern approaches to the CBD however remain traffic quagmires, a legacy of years of mismanagment, delayed decision-making, and poor forward infrastructure planning by successive governments.
The current upgrade may offer relief for long-suffering motorists for the moment, but without another western 'gate' and CBD crossing point, the massive growth in the west and south west of the city will soon have the West Gate Bridge back to the familiar crawl.