Fifty freeway closures

9 March 2017

The CityLink Tulla Widening project is approaching a milestone with a difference

Tonight's closure of CityLink between Flemington Road and the West Gate Freeway from 10.30pm will be the project's 50th* freeway closure since construction began in October 2015.

The project doesn't take these closures lightly and we only shut down a freeway when we have major work to do, like installing a 68-metre overhead message-board, or fitting steel beams to form part of a new bridge.

The logistics of these closures are extreme, with more than 200 workers converging on-site to get the job done as quickly and safely as possible.

We understand that there's never a good time to do roadworks, but we have a team of traffic experts to ensure freeway closures are scheduled at times when disruption to drivers will be as minimal as possible.

One such expert is Justin Allen who explains that freeway closures are only carried out when traffic volumes are at their lowest.

"We try to avoid major events in Melbourne, especially those attracting over 50,000 attendees, like the big concerts or sporting events at Etihad when lots of people will be on the road late at night," Justin says.

"We also look at what other works are happening across the VicRoads network to see if there's a combined impact.

"Given the amount of network-wide construction happening at the moment, schedule clashes can be hard to avoid, but we like to figure out if drivers will be affected by multiple impacts and we take that into account."

Designing detours is also important and Justin says a lot of work goes into planning the best routes for drivers to avoid freeway closure, including more green time at the traffic lights.

"We try to stick to state arterial roads because they're high-quality and built to cope with a certain number and type of vehicle," Justin says.

"We take into account low-clearance bridges and we try to avoid those because we're often detouring trucks.

"We also look at what signals the traffic will have to go through and provide information to our signals team so they can allow more green time for our detour route as it will be taking a lot more traffic than usual."

Justin says that after so many freeway closures, detours are now flowing more smoothly as drivers are becoming used to following on-road signage.

But the traffic team still encounters drivers who rely too heavily on GPS.

"The biggest lesson we've learned is that a lot of people prefer to trust their phones and navigation systems over the detour signs," Justin says.

"This is difficult for us because if a driver's phone is telling them to get on the freeway at the next entry ramp, but that ramp is closed, the driver will end up having to weave through backstreets and become more and more lost.

"We're working with Google Maps to see if they will include our closures on a more regular basis so people can still follow their phones."

As always, we'd like to thank you for sticking with us during these roadworks. We're doing our best to minimise construction impacts on drivers and local communities while we work on building new lanes to get you home safer and sooner.

*Thursday night is the 50th freeway closure for the section between Power Street and Bulla Road. This figure does not include the five Tullamarine closures for the section between Bulla Road and Melbourne Airport.