What does the Victorian budget mean for the state’s infrastructure sector?

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has delivered a significant increase in public infrastructure spending as part of the state’s 2019-20 budget.

Mr. Pallas forecast a 2.75 per cent expansion in the state’s economy, with more than a third attributed to public works.

Additionally, the budget identifies the construction sector as the fastest growing employment industry in the state, followed by health, hospitality and professional and technical services.

Absent from Mr. Pallas’s announcement is a funding allocation to the airport rail link, with the budget only making note of the $50 million federal investment.

Estimates show for completion, the project will require $8 to $13 billion.

Multiple media outlets including the ABC, The Australian and The Age have referred to the budget as transport and infrastructure driven, so what does this mean for Victorian roads and infrastructure?

The North East Link is the budget’s centrepiece, with an allocation of $15.8 billion.

Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the allocation will deliver every cent required to build the North East Link.

“People have talked about North East Link for decades, but no one has delivered the funding to get it built – until now,” Ms. Allan said.

“On the first day after the 2018 election, the Labor Government put North East Link out to market – calling for expressions of interest from builders to widen the Eastern Freeway and construct a six-kilometre tunnel to give local roads back to local residents.”

According to Ms. Allan, planning approvals for the project are expected to be in place by the end of the year, with early works estimated to start in 2020.

“North East Link will cut travel times by up to 35 minutes, take 15,000 trucks off local roads and create more than 10,000 jobs during construction. It will return $1.30 back to the Victorian economy for every dollar invested,” Ms. Allan said.

“The project will also deliver major upgrades to the Eastern Freeway, which will streamline traffic, reduce congestion and slash travel times.”

Ms. Allan called the project a crucial component of the budget’s $27.4 billion ‘suburban transport blitz.’

“The blitz also includes $608 million to upgrade local roads that drivers use every day, including $22.6 million to fix some of our busiest and most congested intersections,” Ms. Allan said.

“Whether it’s fixing a pot hole at the end of your street or building North East Link – this budget is delivering the big and small projects needed to get you where you need to go.”

The West Gate Tunnel has been allocated $1.6 billion, on top of the $2.5 billion already invested in the project.

CityLink has received a ten-year contract extension on the tunnel after agreeing to partial funding.

A further $486 million has been allocated to improve country road standards, while $52.9 million will go towards improving a dozen key traffic bottlenecks across Victoria, with the promise of new signals, pedestrian crossings and improved parking options.

The budget has allocated $120.6 million over four years to combat dangerous driving.

Mr. Pallas said the investment would be used to boost mobile camera hours by 75 per cent and invest in new road safety technology.

An additional $45.4 million will be invested in bike and pedestrian paths across Victorian suburbs, including $27.3 million for safety upgrades and dedicated bike lanes on St Kilda road and a lighting upgrade on the Upfield bike path.

Roads Minister Jaala Pulford said the budget would deliver the upgrades Victoria needs to deal with population growth.

“There’s nothing more frustrating than getting stuck in traffic when all you want to do is get home,” Ms. Pulford said.

“That’s why we’re removing bottlenecks, upgrading intersections and building the projects we need to get you home sooner.”

The budget provides similar investment to public transport, with $2.1 billion allocated to enable track upgrades for high-capacity trains on the Sunbury Line.

Regional train lines have received $615 million, including funds for 18 new modified V/Line trains to run on the upgraded northeast line.

An additional $50 million will go towards new train stations around Bendigo, Goornong, Raywood and Huntly.

$205.1 million has been allocated to increase train and bus services, while $111 million will be used to recruit, train and up skill train drivers.

$6.6 billion has been allocated to remove 25 level crossings, while a further $3.4 billion has been allocated to deliver upgrades on suburban train lines.

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