If you spend any time driving around the western suburbs of Melbourne, getting stuck in traffic along the Western Ring Road is an ordeal that will be very familiar to you. Viewed on a map the freeway looks just like the name suggests, a ring around the middle suburbs of Melbourne, except for a major kink to the west around Ardeer. So why does the freeway take such a sudden turn in that area?
A closer look at the Melways shows that a direct alignment through the suburbs of Ardeer and Sunshine West is possible: an electrical transmission line cuts right through the middle of the suburb, with a linear park making use of the otherwise idle land.
Down at ground level the space for a freeway is still there: this is looking south from Glengala Road.
Turning to the north, only a single house blocks the open alignment: 164 Glengala Road, Sunshine West.
A check of the Land Victoria maps shows that this house has a conventional Residential 1 Zone (R1Z) applied to it, with the rest of the open reserve coming under the Public Park and Recreation Zone (PPRZ).
So with all this wide open space, why wasn’t the Western Ring Road built straight down the middle? To answer that question, I dug through my collection of old Melbourne street directories – as well as showing how much the city has grown, they often depict freeway proposals that never get built.
I hit paydirt in Edition 26 of the UBD directory, dated 1983, with map 68 showing a big dotted line running through the middle of Sunshine West and Ardeer.
Digging back further to the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan, the alignment of the Western Ring Road was also visible, as part of the proposed F3 and F5 freeways.
So when was the alignment through the middle of the suburbia abandoned, replaced by a longer route through empty paddocks?
I found a lead in the 30 November 1989 edition of the Government Gazette, which introduced the Environmental Effects Statement approval process for the Western Ring Road. It detailed how the proposed freeway was to follow the existing F3 and F5 reservations already included in the planning schemes of the Cities of Werribee, Sunshine and Keilor – but not through Ardeer.
I then paid a visit to the State Library of Victoria to find the Environmental Effects Statement itself – in particular, that for the Sunshine to Keilor section of the Western Ring Road.
In ‘Supplementary Report No. 12’ dated November 1989, I found the following line:
The current Proposed Main Road reservation through Ardeer is to be deleted as the reservation width is considered insufficient to provide for a major arterial road.
It then goes on to recommend new usages of the now unneeded land:
The length of the reservation between the St Albans rail line and Derrimut is to be rezoned as follows:
(i). The section adjacent to Public Open Space reservations to the east and north of Hulett Street – to Public Open Space reservation.
(ii). The section adjacent to General Industrial Zone immediately north of Western Highway – to General Industrial Zone.
(iii). In Ardeer, from the Western Highway to Forrest Street amended to Proposed Secondary Road. An area immediately north of Forrest Street amended to Reserved Living.
(iv). From Ridgeway Parade southwards to Dalton Street rezoned to Reserved Living to allow residential development to take place subject to satisfactory road access arrangements. The present Proposed Secondary Road reservation (for the extension of Wright Street) will be retained until the long term development of the land is determined.
(v). South of Dalton Street a strip of land fronting Nicholson Parade is proposed to be rezoned to Reserved Living. This will ensure that the Sunshine West neighbourhood is not affected by industrial traffic intrusion if land to the west is developed for industry. The remainder of the old road reservation is proposed to be rezoned as Reserved Light Industrial to reflect present zoning to the west.
Item (iii) above will enable the provision of a north-south access route which will greatly improve accessibility in this area, currently severely limited by lack of crossing opportunities over the rail line and Kororoit Creek.
The Council has yet to carry out detailed traffic and planning studies for Ardeer/Sunshine West. These may show the need for different zones or reservations in the area. Designation of the land as Reserved Living generally preserves these options. If the Council decides that a road is not required for it’s purposes on the existing reservation north of Forrest Street, the land would revert to its underlying zoning of Reserved Living; or some such other reservation that the Council may decide upon. Before rezoning of the land is approved, the potential for contamination of the site will be assessed.
With the route of the Western Ring Road through Ardeer now decided, construction started in the early 1990s, with the Keilor Park Drive to Western Highway section opening in July 1995, and the Western Highway to Boundary Road, Laverton segment in March 1996.
As for the land zoning changes, the Government Gazette dated 19 January 1995 detailed the final abandonment of the old freeway route.
Planning and Environment Act 1987
NOTICE OF AMENDMENT TO A PLANNING SCHEME
The Brimbank City Council, Sunshine Office has prepared Amendment L79 to the Sunshine Planning Scheme. This amendment proposes to change the planning scheme by rezoning land along part of the abandoned Western Ring Road Reservation as follows.
(1) Parkland between Ridgeway Parade and Wright Street from Proposed Main Road Reservation to Public Open Space Reservation.
(2) Existing residential property at 164 Glengala Road from Proposed Main Road Reservation to Proposed Public Open Space Reservation.
(3) Part of Glengala Road from Proposed Main Road Reservation to Secondary Road Reservation.
(4) Existing residential properties in Hall Street and Lachlan Road from Proposed Main Road Reservation to Residential C Zone.
(5) Vacant land in Wright Street, Adina Court, Yaralla Count and Dalton Street from Proposed Main Road and Proposed Secondary Road Reservations to Reserved Living Zone.
(6) Vacant land in Adina Court from Proposed Main Road Reservation and Reserved Living Zones to Proposed Secondary Road Reservation.
(7) Vacant land in Fremont Parade and Marti Court from Proposed Main Road Reservation to Residential C Zone.
This amendment can be inspected at the Brimbank City Council, Sunshine Ofﬁce, Alexandra Avenue, Sunshine or the Department for Planning and Development (Plan Inspection Section, Ground Floor, the Olderﬂeet Buildings, 477 Collins Street, Melbourne) and will be available for inspection during ofﬁce hours by any person free of charge. Submissions about the amendment must be sent to the Urban Planning Department, Brimbank City Council, Sunshine Office, Municipal Offices, Alexandra Avenue, Sunshine 3020 by Monday, 20 February 1995.
So that wraps up everything up, including the little house by itself at 164 Glengala Road, Sunshine West.
- The short term effects of Melbourne’s Western Ring Road: a paper by Paul Mees