Communities in Melbourne’s west celebrated the recent level crossing removals at Robinsons Road, Deer Park and Fitzgerald Road, Ardeer over the weekend, with the opening of a new shared use path warmly welcomed by locals.
The level crossing at Fitzgerald Road was removed in July this year, 6 months ahead of schedule, while the nearby crossing at Robinsons Road in Deer Park swiftly followed in September, months ahead of the 2023 commitment.
The Western Community Fun Day drew over 300 locals and was held to mark the recent removals, which have significantly improved safety and congestion in the area, as well as thank the community for their patience during the works.
A Welcome to Country by the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation opened the new shared use path at Fitzgerald Road, which provides a direct connection to the Western Ring Road trail. Cyclists from community group BrimBUG were among the first to try out the new path.
'We’re really excited having this new trail, anything that gets more people out on their bikes, it’s healthy for them, it’s healthy for the environment and the more links we can have between each bike track is really just marvelous,' BrimBUG spokesperson Jo Head said.
'We really appreciate the Government building this (new path), they’ve done a really good job, the landscaping looks great and it’s just a wonderful thing to have.'
Local Sunshine resident, Michelle Muscat, has lived all her life in the community and said the area has changed for the better thanks to the Level Crossing Removal Project.
'Many years ago, it was just a paddock, I used to come here rabbit hunting with my father, it was nothing like it is today – with the bicycle path, landscaping, open space, and beautiful plants. The community is going to benefit so much and enjoy it for many generations to come,' Michelle said.
'With the boom gates the traffic could be jammed and there was a lot of traffic delays, I’ve been on the bus for half an hour waiting for the boom gates, but now it’s much better, more open and safer.'
The community event in Nancy Street Reserve, Sunshine West on Saturday 1 October featured free food and coffee from local traders and the team gave out thousands of bagels, burgers and crepes. There was also fairy floss, face painting, a magician and cartoonist to entertain the crowds.
Fiona Clarke, a Kirrae Whurrong artist, who designed the artwork featured on screens along the new Fitzgerald Road bridge and shared use path, was also on hand to answer questions about her artwork and explain the significance of the symbols used to Aboriginal culture.
The level crossing at Fitzgerald Road was removed by building a road bridge over the rail line, while the Robinsons Road level crossing was removed by building a new road underpass and rail bridge.
The boom gates in Deer Park and Ardeer were down for up to 45% of the morning peak, when up to 37 trains ran through the crossings. Current network plans involve increasing trains running on the Geelong and Ballarat lines, meaning more boom gate downtime.
The removal of these level crossings has reduced travel times, improved safety and traffic flow, and created better local connections for pedestrians and cyclists.
Works will continue until the end of the year to plant more than 250,000 trees, shrubs and grasses at Fitzgerald and Robinsons roads.
Over the coming months there will also be overnight closures at Robinsons Road to complete the new underpass and install permanent traffic signalling. Traffic management will remain in place while we finish this work.