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Rail tracks on the Upfield line in Melbourne's north could be elevated over Moreland Road and Bell Street, or lowered beneath the Coburg arterial roads in an open trench, under fresh draft plans to get rid of boom gates holding up the traffic.
In the lead up to the 2014 election, the Andrews Government promised to remove 50 dangerous and congested level crossings by 2022.
The government has since committed to removing an extra two level crossings, and preliminary designs for Bell Street Coburg and Moreland Road, on the Brunswick/Coburg border, reveal that a total of 53 crossings could be removed, with boom gates to go at either Munro Street or O'Hea Street in Coburg.
Two design proposals, released to the public for feedback, are for level crossings close to Coburg and Moreland railway stations. The authority has ruled out any compulsory acquisitions.
Construction will start next year and the crossings will be removed in 2020.
The 'rail over road' proposal would see train tracks rise at Tinning Street, Brunswick, and stretch over Moreland Road, before lowering to ground level at Carron Street, Coburg.
The tracks would rise again about 500 metres away at Sargood Street, extend over Munro and Bell Streets (removing crossings at both roads) and lower to the road’s surface, between Bell and O'Hea Streets in Coburg.
Under the 'rail under road' design, the railway would be lowered beneath both roads in an open trench up to 20 metres wide.
The tracks would go underground at Cameron Street, Brunswick, near the Brunswick tram depot, extend beneath Moreland Road, and rise at Carron Street.
It would then lower again at Munro Street, continue beneath Bell and O'Hea Streets (removing crossings at both roads) and return to level at Gaffney Street, Coburg.
A combination of these designs could be chosen - the rail line could be raised over Bell Street and lowered under Moreland Road.
Michael Bradshaw's balcony at a new residential tower on Bell Street overlooks the railway.
He feared that if the line was raised, the apartment he bought two years ago would be overlooking a "blight on the suburb".
"It will be right in front of my balcony, so I will lose my natural light," said Mr Bradshaw.
Sophia Purvis, who owns a property just metres away Bell Street level crossing, was concerned that the elevated structure would invade residents' privacy.
But Ms Purvis said she was relieved there were no plans to raise or lower the road, which would have seen 20 homes compulsorily acquired - including hers.
“Either way, I think it has to be done,” she said. “The bank up of traffic along Bell Street is crazy, it's a main thoroughfare for Melbourne and you're getting stopped every 500 metres.”
The precise cost of removing the extra crossings at Munro Street or O'Hea Streets is unknown, but the authority said that it was factored into the budget of the program, which the Auditor-General valued at $8.3 billion.
Labor councillor and former mayor Lambros Tapinos said that he wanted to see the rail bridge remain raised between the two main crossings, so that the Upfield bike path could be widened to four lanes and a linear park created beneath the viaduct.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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