Planning Minister Rob Stokes today announced approval of the M4 East Motorway, as part of the first stage of WestConnex - Australia’s largest road project.
Mr Stokes has attached a number of conditions to the approval in direct response to issues raised by the community, including:
The provision of at least two dedicated public transport lanes on Parramatta Road, or an alternative public transport solution in the area that is superior to two dedicated lanes on Parramatta Road.
Strict air-quality conditions for the tunnels and ventilation facilities that require compulsory reporting and compliance monitoring;
A requirement for an increase in open space for the local community; and
Maintaining the character of local areas with more trees and ensuring that more built heritage is saved or adaptively reused.
Heavy vehicles will be taken off streets and into M4 East Motorway tunnels resulting in better air-quality across the project area. To address traffic impacts during construction, the conditions of approval require RMS to prepare traffic management controls to manage impacts on surrounding communities, pedestrians and cyclists.
Mr Stokes said the road will help ease congestion for commuters and lead to improved public transport in the corridor. However, after considering the disruption on local residents and in response to issues raised during consultation, the Minister has imposed strict and unprecedented approval conditions.
There will be a number of opportunities for ongoing community involvement in the design of the project such as community input into the Urban Design and Landscape Plan. In addition, the Air Quality Community Consultative Committee must include members of the community who reside close to the ventilation facilities.
The conditions of approval also require compulsory, ongoing reporting and review of strict compliance standards. RMS will be required to make quarterly compliance reports which must be made public on their website.
The Department has closely considered community concerns raised during public consultation and carefully assessed Roads and Maritime Services’ (RMS) M4 East Project proposal on its merits. The following shows issues emphasised in submissions and how the Department has responded.
Project justification and alternatives
The Department is confident the project will meet its objectives;
The main objectives include reducing travel times for drivers travelling between Western Sydney and the CBD and improving the movement of freight and commercial goods and services Sydney’s road network boosting broader economic outcomes;
The State Government is currently investing in a number of improvements in public transport within the vicinity of the project and across the greater Sydney region. The M4 East project is seen as complementary to these public transport initiatives.
Traffic and transport
The M4 East Project will construct two underground tunnels between Homebush and Haberfield which will relieve current traffic congestion on the deteriorating Parramatta Rd, and subsequently allowing better public transport flows on Parramatta Rd;
To prevent future congestion from additional cars, at least two lanes of Parramatta Road must be solely dedicated for the use of public transport or an alternative public transport solution in the area that is superior to two dedicated lanes on Parramatta Road;
The Department’s assessment considered traffic modelling showing improvements to almost all M4 East intersections within the vicinity of the project in 2021, and further traffic improvements in 2031;
To address traffic impacts on nearby road networks during construction RMS must prepare an Operation Environmental Management Plan and Road Network Performance Review in close consultation with Council;
To address traffic impacts during general construction RMS is required to prepare traffic management controls in a Construction Traffic and Access Management Plan, Spoil Management Strategy, and Ancillary Facilities Management Plan.
Heavy vehicles will be taken off streets and into M4 East Motorway tunnels resulting in better air-quality across the project area;
Two ventilation facilities at each ends will emit air from the M4 East tunnels at a tested, compliant and acceptable standard. To ensure this, strict air-quality standards and goals must be met and will be monitored and reported for compliance;
In its assessment, the Department has considered air assessment advice provided by government agencies, the Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality and the findings of its independent air quality consultant;
In addition, an Air Quality Community Consultative Committee will be established and must include members of the community affected by the ventilation facilities to improve monitoring and performance.
Noise and vibration related to traffic and construction
In response to expected noise impacts during construction a Construction Noise and Vibration Management Plan is required, including limits on construction hours, respite periods, acoustic shielding, community consultation and monitoring;
The Department expects the project will result in reduced traffic on Parramatta Rd and a subsequent reduction in noise on Parramatta Rd;
Noise barriers, double-glazing of nearby windows and other mitigation measures will be used to manage increased traffic noise at road interchanges constructed for and connected to the M4 East;
Efforts to manage noise impacts will be made as early as possible in the project and can be reviewed and adjusted as needed.
Social and economic impacts
Social and economic impacts: community cohesion, connectivity, open space, public housing and social facilities
To address impacts on local communities, the conditions of approval require a net increase in open space for those affected by the project and a net increase in the number of replacement trees within or near the project boundary;
A Community and Social Facilities Management Plan must be prepared by RMS to deliver permanent community facilities, open space and connectivity in the areas impacted by the M4 East.
Urban design and visual impacts caused by M4 East ventilation facilities
The community will be consulted on the urban design and landscape of the areas affected by the project and can provide input and guidance through the preparation of the Urban Design and Landscape Plans and the establishment of an Urban Design Review Panel.
As a condition of approval, RMS is required to salvage heritage materials from the Haberfield and Powells Estate Heritage Conservation Areas and reuse them in the M4 East project. Any residual heritage materials must be made available to property owners from the heritage conservation area or local area;
The conditions of approval require the preparation of a Construction Heritage Management Plan, procedures for archaeological excavations, and archival recording of impacted heritage items and heritage conservation areas to minimise impacts to heritage during construction.