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THE powerful Australian Workers Union has backed the controversial east-west road tunnel project and says it will push a future state Labor government to support it.
Cesar Melhem, the secretary of the AWU's Victorian branch, told The Age it would be crazy if the project did not go ahead and his view was simply that it had to be built.
Victorian Labor opposes the section of the proposed east-west tunnel stretching from the end of the Eastern Freeway to CityLink and running underneath Royal Park and surrounding inner-city suburbs.
But it supports construction of a road tunnel in Melbourne's west to create a second river crossing and connection to the port to alleviate traffic on the Westgate Freeway. It also backs works on Hoddle Street to ease traffic flows coming off the Eastern Freeway.
''It is just crazy not to go ahead with the [east-west] project,'' Mr Melhem said.
''We are not going to live without roads and cars. We definitely need more investment in public transport infrastructure from both Labor and the Coalition, but we can't do without road investment.''
Mr Melhem said his support for the east-west project was not just about generating work for his members, but that if Victoria was serious about a manufacturing industry it would be important to help transport goods around the city.
''The AWU will campaign heavily to make sure a future Labor government goes ahead with it,'' Mr Melhem said.
The project featured prominently in the recent state Melbourne byelection - the tunnel would run under much of the electorate - won by Labor in a come-from-behind victory over the Greens.
Local residents fear tolls, increased traffic and the impact on parkland and nearby suburbs. Mr Melhem said one electorate could not determine the best interests of the whole state.
Labor major projects spokesman Tim Pallas said the party would just have to agree to disagree with Mr Melhem. He said the multibillion-dollar tunnel did not stack up and would not solve the problems at the end of the Eastern Freeway. He said most traffic wanted to turn south-east rather than travel west, and that is where efforts should be placed.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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