The design of the $5.5 billion West Gate Tunnel Project by Wood Marsh and Tract Consultants, recently unveiled by the Victorian government, references the Indigenous heritage and maritime history of Melbourne’s west.

Wood Marsh and Tract Consultants are part of the consortium, headed by John Holland and CPB Contractors that was selected to design and build the West Gate Tunnel Project following a competitive process. The West Gate Tunnel Project is being built as an alternative to the existing West Gate Bridge, reducing travel times from the western suburbs and regional areas such as Geelong and Ballarat.

Running from the West Gate Freeway, just west of a western suburbs railway line, underneath Spotswood and Yarraville to the Port of Melbourne, west of the Maribyrnong River, the tunnel will connect with a new elevated freeway above the existing Footscray Road, and a new bridge over the Maribyrnong River. The 2.5-kilometre-long elevated ‘veloway’ above Footscray Road will be part of a total of 14 kilometres of new and upgraded cycling and walking paths.

Armin Voelske, associate director of Wood Marsh explained that the design of the tunnel portals and ventilation structures was inspired by cargo nets, ropes, weaving, baskets and canoes, acknowledging the life-giving qualities of rivers and waterways as well as the Indigenous, colonial and current use of rivers as modes of transport and a food source. The design also includes references to Melbourne’s western plains and the surf coast.

Nine hectares of parks and wetlands will be created along the roadway, which will be rehabilitated from former industrial land. According to Deiter Lim, managing director of Tract Consultants, the new open spaces and creek and river crossings have been included to celebrate the cultural values of the area across its Indigenous, colonial and maritime history.

Construction is set to begin in early 2018 and the project is expected to be completed by 2022.