Melbourne’s M80 Ring Road Upgrade prides itself in being a little bit different. Not only is it the largest project VicRoads has ever taken on, but the 38 kilometre, $2.25 billion project is also setting new standards.
The project has a remit of improving the road for drivers by adding capacity, improving safety and increasing the flow and reliability of the road. This, in itself, isn’t that different. What makes a bit of a change is that these improvements are being delivered during the construction, not just upon completion.
The big stuff
It’s not just the big things changing, such as the new flyover ramp at the Tulla interchange, which will consist of 19 beams at 60 metres long each, needing 1,000 bolts to hold them together. The beams, being put into place with 11 lift events – lifts and construction practised in Tasmania prior to their transport – will be held up by Y shaped piers, requiring a creative approach to casting.
Or the new bridge across Moonee Ponds Creek, six metres higher than the existing bridge, so as to reduce the uphill climb for heavy vehicles. Or the interfacing between trains, trams and the freeway even.
It’s not just the scale – the three sections currently underway will use a total of:
- over 220,000 tons of asphalt,
- over 160,000 tons of concrete,
- more than 6,000 concrete barriers,
- more than 300 beams,
- almost 250 kilometres of linemarking,
- scores of kilometres of wiring,
- almost 15,000 raised pavement markers, and
- almost 250,000 trees and shrubs planted in the roadside.
The little stuff
The upgrade is changing the little stuff too.
Some linemarking, for example, is being delivered differently. Traditionally lane realignment would require profiling or grinding off existing lines before painting on new ones. This can lead to ‘ghosting’, the illusion that the removed lines are still there, particularly in poor light and wet conditions. Drivers can find this confusing and it can be dangerous.
To find an answer to this, VicRoads is trialling yellow lines. In a short section, yellow lines have been placed alongside the white, with signs informing drivers to follow the yellow. This means that lanes can be realigned using the more visible colour, without the risk of ghosting or uneven surfaces from grinding or profiling.
If the trial is successful, yellow lines in work zones could have wide-ranging benefits for drivers and workers alike. It’ll mean a better surface for drivers and less time on site removing and repainting lines for contractors. So the aim is that yellow lines will be safer and ultimately could save money too.
VicRoads has also installed entirely electronic signage throughout the M80 Ring Road during the upgrade. This means that all signs can be changed remotely, faster and without workers having to manually switch signs, meaning less disruption to drivers and less risk to contractors.
It also means that when incidents occur, variable message signs can be used to give drivers early warning. This is a simplified version of the Intelligent Transport System that will be installed throughout the corridor.
All this signage will ultimately be monitored and controlled from the main project office. This means that, while VicRoads’ central Traffic Management Centre has access to the systems, the project office is able to efficiently run the day-to-day traffic management speedily and easily without having to involve third parties.
The three sections underway at present run from Western Highway to Sunshine Avenue, from the Calder Freeway to Sydney Road and from Edgars Road to Plenty Road. Completion for these sections is expected by mid 2013, early 2013 and mid 2014 respectively. The remaining sections will see work begin after the completion of these three. In the meantime, drivers will start to experience the real benefits the upgrade is delivering.