The plan to connect the Western Freeway and Midland Highway is the city’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure undertaking.
With stage one to be completed by the end of April, the City of Ballarat is calling on the state government to fund the $80 million stage one duplication and road to the Glenelg Highway.
The plan is a necessary one to prepare for growth in Ballarat’s west and reduce freight through the CBD.
What’s the plan for the Ballarat Link Road?
The creation of a significant arterial road connecting opposite sides of a city is an unusual undertaking for local government.
But with the impending completion of stage one of the Ballarat Link Road project, City of Ballarat is now seeking funding of $80 million for stage two of the infrastructure.
The next round of work would include duplication of stage one between the Western Freeway and Remembrance Drive including bridge infrastructure, to create two lanes each way.
A road between Remembrance Drive and the Glenelg Highway with one lane in either direction will also be built as part of the project.
The Ballarat Link Road is the centrepiece of City of Ballarat’s funding pitch to state government and opposition in the lead up to the November 24 Victorian Election.
City of Ballarat director of infrastructure and environment Terry Demeo said it was the “single biggest cash ask” of the city’s planned projects, alongside the Emergency Services Hub.
“In terms of the construction techniques, having built that road in its current place now, the duplication is effectively just rolling that over again,” he said.
If funding was approved by the end of this year, detailed design and early works would be finished 2018 and 2019, with construction to start on the project by 2020. The section from the Western Highway and Glenelg Highway is forecast to be completed by 2021.
Multiple intersections along the road’s project route will see large changes. At the intersection of Ballarat-Carngham Road, a major roundabout treatment is needed.
City of Ballarat is working with VicRoads to open up Gregory Street West as part of stage two, with another set of traffic lights necessary where it intersects Gillies Street North before it can reopen.
Following approval to formally close a nearby rail track, the Gregory Street West reopening would be expected to take six months.
A major roundabout is planned where the Link Road intersects with the Glenelg Highway, but there is scope to upgrade the intersection to traffic lights, considering the ever-increasing road use by Delacombe residents.
The ultimate success of the project is also dependent on improvements elsewhere.
The roundabout at the intersection Wiltshire Lane and Smythes Road near the Delacombe Town Centre will need to be given traffic signalling treatment, in order to improve the flow of traffic along the Glenelg Highway.
The Courier understands that VicRoads is seeking funding for the project.
The full Link Road project will be crucial for the future of the Miners Rest saleyards, scheduled to open in July. The completed plan will allow movement that bypasses the CBD, between highways and the Western Freeway near the new saleyards.
The next part to connect the Glenelg Highway to the Midland Highway would require another round of investment, following the successful funding of stage two.
It will include two lanes in either direction, with no land acquisition necessary due to the current width of the road.
Congestion in the CBD increases as there’s a population explosion in Ballarat’s West
An opportunity to route some of the intense traffic flow out of Ballarat’s central business district and provide for the city’s burgeoning west is sorely needed.
The projected total Ballarat population by 2036 is 145,000, but significant growth is forecast in Alfredton, Lucas, Carngham and Bonshaw Creek, which border the Link Road project.
Alfredton alone experienced five per cent population growth each year between 2011 and 2016.
Similarly, truck traffic in the CBD is increasing year on year by 5.8 per cent, reducing the amenity and safety of major roads like Sturt and Doveton streets.
With the creation of the Ballarat Western Employment Zone to drive industry and freight by road, rail and air, and the pending relocation of the saleyards from Delacombe to Miners Rest, City of Ballarat hopes a new linkage might quell congestion in the town’s centre.
City of Ballarat director of infrastructure and environment Terry Demeo said Ballarat had learnt from developments in the West of Melbourne, Point Cook, and Melton, where residents arrived before infrastructure.
“Ballarat council’s growth plan has been about integration, that the character of our growth areas, the streets and plantings … don’t forget about what Ballarat is,” Mr Demeo said.
It’s about getting this really trunk infrastructure in place early to avoid the issues that metro Melbourne has experienced, and you don’t catch up.Terry Demeo, City of Ballarat
“Council’s model is around ensuring that the growth area is serviced early, and not left as a suburban area on the fringe.”
Mayor Samantha McIntosh said Melbourne is “bursting at the seams”, with Ballarat offering a unique and beautiful solution.
And with the new saleyards to be opened in July, Cr McIntosh said it was going to “significantly change” a lot of heavy movement through the CBD, making a connection from the Glenelg and Midland highways directly to the Western Freeway more important than ever.
“We will remain very focused and consistent with our big visionary plans, because we know that it makes sense,” she said.
Building a future-proofed city with connectivity
A group focused on innovative solutions to the city’s problems see the major road project as an opportunity to improve connectivity and the CBD’s usability.
The Link Road hopes to more than halve daily traffic volume along Sturt Street, by providing a new option for crossing the city, from the current average of 23,000 vehicles to 8,970 each day.
Committee for Ballarat connectivity working group chair Nick Beale said he believed the project would “future-proof” the western part of the city.
“This piece of infrastructure really goes a long way to supporting the population growth to come,” he said.
Committee for Ballarat have previously noted projections for Ballarat’s population growth could be out of kilter with the real potential for growth, as people look for affordable property options outside of Melbourne with space and a slower lifestyle.
“Following on from our 59 Minute Ballarat campaign on rail, we support the overall push for better connectivity in and around the city," Mr Beale said.
At a simple level, in terms of the activation of the central business district, the access to the centre of town will be easier with fewer heavy trucks, and it will will certainly make it safer for vehicles and pedestrians.Nick Beale, Committee for Ballarat
“We think it also would be good in terms of taking some of the heavy vehicles out of the city,” Mr Beale said.
Mayor Samantha McIntosh said not only would it provide better connections for the city’s business, it would also provide a solution to “inappropriate" trucks in the centre of town.
“By having this second part of the stage, it will allow us to get the bulk of this heavy and really inappropriate transport out of the CBD,” she said. “We want to know we’re looking after locals, and there’s significant congestion.”