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The "missing link" in Melbourne's ring road, the North East Link, will be kickstarted with $100 million planning funding in next week's state budget.
Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday the money would ensure the project was ready to go before the next election, which is due to be held in late 2018.
The freeway will be tolled and will run from the end of the Metropolitan Ring Road in Greensborough, to either the Eastern Freeway or East Link.
It will cost between $5 billion and $10 billion to build, Mr Andrews said.
"There is some 5000 jobs that will come directly from this $5-$10 billion investment," he said.
The $100 million will cover the cost of geotechnical investigations, design, environmental and social studies - "all the prerequisites to get this project ready for contracts to be signed in the event that we are re-elected next year," the premier said.
Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said that once the road was completed, motorists would be able to drive from Frankston to Altona without passing a set of traffic lights.
For the freight industry, the new link would deliver "absolutely massive time savings", Mr Donnellan said.
"If you look at the roads like Hoddle Street, Fitzsimons Lane, Rosanna Road, it will substantially reduce the congestion on those roads."
Mr Donnellan said the $100 million would ensure a decision is made before the end of next year about which route the toll road will take.
The RACV said it was the most crucial road project for Victoria, and would alleviate traffic snarls right across Melbourne's north-east.
It would also provide a superior freight connection for industry in Dandenong and agriculture in Gippsland, headed for the Epping fruit and vegetable market, the RACV's Brian Negus said.
Freight industry advocate the Victorian Transport Association has called for the link to be built via a third, much longer route through Lilydale on Melbourne's north-eastern fringe.
Association chief executive Peter Anderson said on Thursday it was important for the North East Link Authority to consider a route that does not include tunnels, so dangerous goods vehicles can use the road too.
"With or without a tunnel, Melbourne and the freight industry desperately need the North East Link, however we were encouraged that the authority is considering a range of routing options, and that they understand the restrictions tunnels present for placarded dangerous goods vehicles," Mr Anderson said.
A connection between the ring road and the Eastern Freeway would almost certainly involve tunnelling beneath the Banyule Flats, while the connection to EastLink would likely include a tunnel through Donvale.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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