In late 2015 Stage One of upgrades to improve travel times, safety and reliability on one of Melbourne’s most important routes, the Monash Freeway was announced. Roads & Infrastructure sits down with Major Road Projects Victoria to get an update on Stage Two of the works.
Work on the first section of the Monash Freeway, by Transurban and VicRoads, began in 2016. Two years later, 30 kilometres of extra lanes had been added to the freeway and Stage One construction was estimated to save commuters seven minutes during peak hour.
Stage Two of the Monash Freeway, announced in late 2018 and the upgrade is being undertaken by Major Road Projects Victoria, with CPB Contractors. It includes the construction of 36 kilometres of new freeway lanes, connections to arterial roads, smart on-road technology installation, upgrades to O’Shea Road and construction of a shared user path in Beaconsfield.
In total, $1.4 billion has been invested to improve the Monash Freeway.
Catherine Gunn, Project Director for the Monash Freeway Upgrade Stage Two says the works in this section of the project will complement Stage One and make journeys on the freeway quicker, easier and safer.
“We are very much looking to improve traffic flow and travel times. We are also looking to make it easier to get onto the freeway network, so we’ve got some upgrades to connections and there will be improvements in the Beaconsfield interchange area to make it easier for walking and cycling there,” Gunn says.
She says 1.8 million people live along the Monash Corridor and the surrounding suburbs produce an economic output of $75 billion a year.
“It’s important that this part of Melbourne has a freeway with capacity and connectivity. There are also a few growth fronts that this project touches upon and this project will also improve access and connectivity to these new housing developments.”
Major construction began on Stage Two this year and teams have been creating a workzone in the centre median by moving all of the current freeway lanes onto the shoulders.
Gunn explains the project is set up in four discrete sections, the Western, Central, Eastern and the arterial connection at O’Shea Road. O’Shea Road was originally a council owned road and work on the project will see it upgraded to an arterial road with three lanes in either direction to create a smooth connection onto the freeway.
Works undertaken to date have focused on fixing and improving the temporary shoulder lanes, readjusting the lane use management signs to match the new lane locations and adding temporary barriers to prepare the freeway for construction. In total, around 46 kilometres of temporary barriers were needed to create the workzone in the centre median where the main work is happening.
Construction has also started on the project’s bridges, in total eight bridges will need upgrades. There are four bridges in the Western section which all need widening. Piling works for foundations have commenced on these as well the construction of the substructure concrete works.
Gunn says for the remainder of the year the team is getting ready to install beams on some of the bridges that are being widened, starting with Police Road, Jacksons Road and Cardinia Creek.
“We are continuing to construct our pavement in the centre median and works are beginning to happen at the Beaconsfield interchange,” she says.
Gunn says with a quick design time-line the team had 8000 drawings to review which spanned over 46 kilometres of the works, a considerable effort.
The Western section of construction covers what was known as the Mulgrave Freeway which is almost 50 years old.
“Some of the assets we are working with are of age, so getting to know the bridges and understanding what they need in order to be upgraded has been important,” she says.
With traffic running along the freeway shoulder in the Western section, there are heavier loadings on the pavement than it has experienced before, so extra repairs and upkeep is a key consideration for the project team.
“Right across the Western section the pavement is of age so maintaining it prior to construction is a challenge. We have crews out regularly maintaining the pavement,” Gunn says.
“The Eastern section’s pavement is granular so as we switch traffic onto the shoulders, this is also putting a lot of pressure on the pavement. We’re spending a lot of time keeping the pavement maintained there while we are doing the works. There is really a lot of maintenance work involved as well as the capital upgrade.”
While the impacts of Stage Four restrictions in Metropolitan Melbourne affected the project, Gunn says the challenges were balanced in some cases by a reduction in traffic.
“We are certainly seeing a reduced volume on the network and when the curfew was introduced, we saw a further reduction. That gave us opportunity to do more lane closures during the day while keeping a close eye on traffic,” she says.
“It also enabled us to implement slightly longer shifts. With the curfew we were able to match our shifts with that to take some of the pressure off from managing works in the COVID-19 environment with extra protocols.”
Sustainability has been a significant consideration on the Monash Freeway Stage Two project. The project is being rated by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia and the team have been working to implement solutions whenever possible.
As of early 2020 in Victoria, all tenders for major government projects are required to demonstrate how they would use waste or recycled products as part of the Recycled First policy.
The Monash Freeway Stage Two tender was awarded before this came into place, but sustainability was not left behind.
“CPB has been keen to give many things a go and has produced a variety of ideas for us, it’s just a matter of working through technical requirements and standards with the Department of Transport,” Gunn says.
“Monash Freeway needs to be a high performing pavement, given the high traffic volumes it carries, but notwithstanding that there is still quite a scope for RAP in the asphalt mix, crushed concrete in the crushed rock mixes and other things like recycled glass as bedding and backfill.”
The project forecasts to use around 50,000 tonnes of RAP and 60,000 tonnes of crushed rock.
In addition, the project has implemented a range of wider sustainability initiatives.
Biodiesel generators are being used at some of the project’s remote sites which will save around 70 kilolitres of fuel. Renewable energy contracts have also been sourced to power the site offices which is estimated to save 350,000 kilowatts of energy over the life of the job.
Hydro demolition is being used on many of the bridges on the projects. This process captures the water used and up to 70 per cent of that water can be processed and reused. The project forecasts it will save 600 kilolitres of water.
“Where crews have needed to remove bridge barriers in some cases, they have even reused them to mark out car parks and areas at site offices. I think sustainable initiatives are very much about opening people’s minds to what is possible and there is definitely an appetite for that,” Gunn says.
Stage Two construction is expected to be completed in 2022 with improvements to traffic flow, reduction in travel time and better connections to the freeway being the main benefits.
“We understand that there will be about a nine-minute reduction in inbound peak hour traffic times and around 13 minutes saved outbound in peak traffic when the project is complete,” Gunn says.
In total over 36 kilometres of extra lanes will be added to the freeway on top of 12 kilometres of arterial connection lanes.
While the benefits are expected to progress long after project completion, the Monash Freeway has also been vital in creating 600 jobs throughout construction and is providing employment in Victoria at a time when it has been most needed.