WALTER Salles’ new film adaptation of On the Road begins with leading man Sal Paradise hitching a ride and, when asked where he is going, replying: ”Just going”.
Nanjing Night Net

The scene captures the car’s abiding potency in popular culture as a symbol of personal freedom and endless possibility, even if Jack Kerouac’s classic ’50s novel assumes an increasingly nostalgic glow with the passing of time.

But claims for the open road’s liberating powers looked shaky in Melbourne on Wednesday, when the city’s two major road tunnels were shut down because toll operator Transurban suffered a computer malfunction. For tens of thousands of delayed motorists, the line might have been, ”Going, but only just”.

At the height of the morning’s gridlocked frustration, Transport Minister Terry Mulder used the moment to push the Baillieu government’s conviction that the solution to Melbourne’s transport problems was to build the east-west link. The 18-kilometre road would prevent a repeat of the meltdown by giving the city an alternate east-west arterial.

Mr Mulder urged Labor, state and federal, to back the project for the good of Victoria.

Also on Wednesday in Sydney, the New South Wales government was handed a 20-year transport plan for the city by Infrastructure NSW. Its $10 billion centrepiece was the WestConnex motorway, a major arterial that would be built by carving up Parramatta Road, which is loathed by Sydneysiders for its hellish traffic jams.

Infrastructure NSW, an independent advisory body headed by former premier Nick Greiner, said WestConnex would save people 35 minutes and 52 traffic lights between Parramatta and the airport. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell instantly committed $1.8 billion to the project.

Neither of the priority road projects of Victoria and NSW have federal funding yet. But Sydney University’s Professor David Hensher, who advises the board of Infrastructure Australia on public transport, said their submissions would both be assessed soon. WestConnex in particular ”could very well gain favour”, he said.

Professor Hensher backed the project as an attempt ”to be more realistic about the dominance of the car”.

”More people use buses than trains in Sydney,” he said.

RMIT transport expert Paul Mees said the O’Farrell government’s centrepiece project was likely to get a green light from the federal government before the east-west link, because Victoria had already been given more than any other state from the Building Australia Fund.

”Victoria has already got much more land transport funding than anyone else because of the funding of the regional rail link,” Dr Mees said.

The project received $3.2 billion in federal funding and will be built by 2016.

”There are five other states and if Victoria got the money every time a large grant was made out of that fund, the federal government couldn’t support it politically, regardless of who’s in power, because the other states would all scream murder,” Dr Mees said.

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