Melbourne Airport Drive extension opened [The Age, 2015]

Connectivity level up! Tarneitians, rejoice – the new airport drive extension is open. Getting to the airport has now been made easier. The extension is meant to reduce congestion on the Tullamarine Freeway – so what used to be a 30 min drive to the airport takes just about 20 minutes. I got to experience ‘liberation’ this as I returned from an overseas trip. Despite my flight landing at about 8.00am, the car drive back was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Surely – with the Regional Rail Link and this direct ‘zip’ to the airport, this can only bode well for Tarneit. Thumbs up to the infrastructure planners and doers.

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‘By the mid-2020s the airport is expected to have around 40 million passengers visiting per year.’

Melbourne Airport Drive extension opened
Neelima Choahan
Source – The Age, published June 29, 2015

It is a new $100 million road linking Melbourne Airport to the Western Ring Road, and it will take up to 15,000 cars a day off Tullamarine Freeway.

Next to it is a patch of dirt, earmarked for the long-awaited – and currently cancelled – airport rail link.

Roads Minister Luke Donnellan, opening the new road on Sunday, said the 3.3-kilometre stretch would reduce congestion on the Tullamarine Freeway, making it far easier for commuters from the west to access Melbourne Airport.

The new four-lane road includes the renaming of a part of Melrose Drive to Airport Drive.

Built between Sharps Road and Mercer Drive, the road directly links the airport to the Ring Road and has the capacity to be expanded to six lanes in the future.

“[It] will encourage more people to come to the airport in a quicker time,” Mr Donnellan said. “We know with the growth to the west of the city, for the community that lives there, access to the airport is vital.”

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But Mr Donnellan would not make any commitment on when Melbourne might get the long-awaited rail link to the airport – promised on and off since Melbourne Airport opened in 1970.

The project would have to wait until the Melbourne Metro underground rail line was finished, he said. That massive $11 billion project is not due to start construction until 2018.

“Until you actually double the capacity of the city you really can’t do anything more than that,” Mr Donnellan said.

Melbourne Airport chief Chris Woodruff said he was disappointed at the delay in the airport rail link project. “Look, it’s ready, we are ready,” he said. “But I do understand the state’s desire to have more capacity in the network before we can add high-frequency rail to the airport.”

Mr Woodruff has been outspoken in his support for the rail link, and said something had to be done within the next 10 years with the Tullamarine Freeway expected to reach its peak capacity by mid-2020.

By the mid-2020s the airport is expected to have around 40 million passengers visiting per year.

“If we want to keep this airport running smoothly … for the sake of the state we are going to have to have another way of getting people to and from here,” he said. “The SkyBus is brilliant but it is going to get caught up in road congestion eventually.”

Mr Donellan said, while the Tullamarine Freeway was being widened, there were no plans for a dedicated corridor for the SkyBus.

The former Napthine government pledged to build a rail extension to Melbourne Airport by 2026, but the idea was shelved after Labor won last year’s election.

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