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Vehicle emissions along the $16 billion North East Link will exceed the state's new air pollution standards, with the Eastern Freeway also predicted to fail pollution checks as an extra 100,000 vehicles come onto the road each day.
Air pollution modelling prepared for the state government finds that by 2036, the amount of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on the mega-project will exceed daily limits at several points along the yet-to-be-built road in Melbourne's north-east, creating poor air quality in the surrounding areas.
The predicted amount of PM2.5 — which the World Health Organisation has declared is carcinogenic — will exceed new targets the state government is introducing by 2025, two years before the road is completed.
The North East Link will lead to 100,000 more cars on the Eastern Freeway each day.CREDIT:EDDIE JIM
The modelling also shows an increase in the amount of PM2.5 on the Eastern Freeway — which will be widened to up to 24 lanes to cater for 100,000 extra vehicles each day once the North East Link is built, causing the air quality to worsen from "moderate" to "poor", according to the state Environment Protection Authority's rating system.
The amount of PM2.5 on the Eastern Freeway will be 29 micrograms per cubic metre by 2036, breaching the current standard of 25 and a tougher target introduced by 2025 of 20.
The North East Link will connect the Eastern Freeway in Bulleen to the Metropolitan Ring Road in Greensborough– providing a route for trucks around the city rather than through it.
Air pollution will increase on Greensborough Road in Watsonia, with PM2.5 rising from 16 micrograms per cubic metre before the project to 27 after it is built.
Lower Plenty, Rosanna and Williamstown roads, the Chandler Highway and the M80 Ring Road are among the 25 roads included in the model, with air quality at these sites found to be poor and in breach of the standards.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that more than 3000 Australians die early from urban air pollution each year — far more than the 1182 Australians who died on the country's roads last year.
PM2.5 are tiny inhalable particles that come from combustion processes such as petrol and particularly diesel vehicles, bushfires and coal burning.
The North East Link states that overall, the amount of pollution caused by the project is small.
The construction of twin 5-kilometre tunnels beneath Bulleen and the Yarra River is also designed to improve health outcomes like air quality.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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