Work starts on “Gateway to GMH” in Fishermans Bend, but concerns remain for “all road users”

Work starts on “Gateway to GMH” in Fishermans Bend, but concerns remain for “all road users”
Sean Car

Work is underway to transform Turner St in Fishermans Bend into an active gateway to the precinct’s future employment hub at the former General Motors Holden (GMH) site – the catalyst project that will help to deliver 80,000 jobs to the area by 2050.

But the Fishermans Bend Business Forum, which represents a number of large employers in the precinct, has expressed concerns that “future plans may not accommodate all road users”.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp joined Fishermans Bend Development Board chair Meredith Sussex at Turner St on June 3 to mark the beginning of the joint project between the City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government.

The “Gateway to GMH” project seeks to transform the corridor from the Fishermans Bend Innovation Precinct at the former GMH site on Salmon St into the CBD. With the University of Melbourne having already purchased land at the site for a new engineering and design campus to open in 2025, the initiative will cater for more active transport uses for future students and workers travelling to the precinct.

According to the state government’s planning framework for Fishermans Bend, a new tram route is also mooted for construction along Turner St from the CBD.

Phase one of the gateway works, due for completion later this year, include a new walking and cycling path, new asphalt and recycled glass pedestrian pavement, the trial of new permeable surfaces to allow rain and stormwater to flow through the surface into the soil, and other traffic calming measures and drainage upgrades.

The project will also deliver new digital infrastructure, enabling the roll-out of 5G and real-time sensing networks using council-owned smart poles that can host 5G antennae, sensors, lighting and other technologies.

According to the City of Melbourne, the smart poles will “future proof the precinct and support innovation, including advanced manufacturing”.

Street greening works are already underway at the southern side of Turner St near the Australian Road and Research Board’s (ARRB’s) headquarters, with the Lord Mayor and Ms Sussex helping plant one of hundreds of new trees as part of the June 3 announcement.

But the provision of more space along the Turner St corridor for pedestrians, cyclists and tree planting continues to be the cause of concern for the existing business community in Fishermans Bend, many of which depend on heavy vehicle access.

Within the precinct’s cement industry alone, there are an estimated 360 concrete truck movements between Lorimer and Turner streets every day, and many more from other large companies such USG Boral.

Some within the industry have described the council’s plans as “half-baked”, with many expressing frustrations that the opportunity to cater for large vehicles, trams, cyclists and pedestrians now appears lost with the planting of new trees on the south side of Turner St.

One worker from the cement industry lamented the “total disconnect” between the plans and the needs of businesses, with many calling for the government to devise a freight plan for the growing precinct.

Following a $3 million funding commitment towards a transport feasibility study for Fishermans Bend by re-elected Member for Macnamara Josh Burns, Fishermans Bend Business Forum vice-president Murray Nicol told Southbank News his organisation was looking to the consultative process to assess “all options”.

“While we’re pleased to see works starting and beautifying of the area, our concerns are that future plans for Gateway to GMH may not accommodate all road users – businesses, residents, transport and students,” Mr Nicol said.

“We hope the trees can stay and trams, trucks, cyclists and pedestrians are all looked after under the plans.”

While Turner St’s current configuration allows for single lane two-way traffic with adjoining bike lanes, the street’s southern edge boasts a wide nature strip which the council is utilising to create a new shared pathway and plant hundreds of new trees.

When the project was considered at the council’s November 21 Future Melbourne Committee meeting last year, the report to councillors stated that its “officers met with the Concrete and Cement Aggregates Association (the CCAA) to provide a briefing on the project and discuss key feedback.”

“The CCAA then provided a formal submission via email indicating their support for the replacement of the existing on-road cycle lane with a shared path on Turner St,” the report from council management stated.

But with a new tram also proposed for the corridor, many within the industry have argued that there was an opportunity for a tram and bike route to coincide with increased road space.

The CCAA did not respond to Southbank News for comment before publishing.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the transformation of Fishermans Bend presented an “unprecedented opportunity for Melbourne” with the Gateway to GMH project to “set the precinct up for the next 50 years.”

“The National Employment and Innovation Cluster precinct will become a hub for advanced manufacturing, engineering and design, supporting Melbourne’s innovation ecosystem and creating thousands of jobs within Fishermans Bend,” Cr Capp said.

“A key part of our innovation approach is running a Fishermans Bend Innovation Challenge to generate and foster transformative ideas that use data and technology to shape the future of the precinct.”

“We’re building new shared paths for pedestrians and bike riders, improving kerbing, significantly increasing tree plantings, providing picnic and recreation areas, installing smart infrastructure and trialling new materials to showcase innovation and provide a taste of the future for Fishermans Bend.”  

Ms Sussex said “improving accessibility” along Turner St would support the Victorian Government’s plans for a “thriving hub for advanced manufacturing, engineering and design” at the former GMH site.

“The ‘Gateway to GMH’ project is an exciting sign of what’s to come, including the $179.4 million for stage one enabling works on the former General Motors Holden site. We’re improving accessibility by delivering new cycling and walking paths, creating more green spaces and introducing innovative digital infrastructure to the precinct,” she said.

“Increasing cycling in Fishermans Bend is great for all road users by creating safer connections that separate cyclists and heavy vehicles.” •

Captions: (Left) Meredith Sussex and (right) Lord Mayor Sally Capp help plant one of many new trees along Turner St on June 3.

Photo: Murray Enders.

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