On my way home from uni last night, I was driving along the M2 Motorway when I noticed portable variable message signs had been set up on both approaches to the toll plaza, saying something along the lines of:
Express lanes coming soon
Construction starts October
Could it be? The M2 is finally going to get dedicated non-stop e-toll only lanes at the toll plaza, just like the M4 and M5? This would be wonderful news, as vehicles with e-toll tags currently still need to slow down to 40 km/h to get through the toll plaza and this does cause congestion especially during peak hour.
The M2 Hills Motorway website confirms it’s true, as does a press release on the Transurban website. (In case you missed the news, Transurban, owner of Melbourne’s CityLink and the under construction Westlink M7, bought the M2 earlier this year)
Six toll booths in the centre of the main toll plaza would be removed to create two dedicated e-toll lanes in each direction, with cash payment booths being maintained on the either side. The overhead gantries are going to be installed by late December and the toll booths themselves would be removed early next year.
M2 toll plaza with dedicated e-toll lanes (source: M2 Hills Motorway)
However, the press release states that the speed limit through the toll plaza will still only be 80 km/h, meaning motorists will still have to slow down from 100 km/h.
I’m also a bit worried about the limited space after the toll plaza — are there going to be long enough slip lanes for cash-paying motorists to merge back into the main traffic flow safely? The Christie Rd exit heading eastbound is right after the toll plaza as well, and it’d be quite dangerous if there was e-toll traffic merging left immediately after the toll plaza to use the exit as well.
There’s going be improvements at the Pennant Hills Rd interchange too, with an e-toll lane minus boom gate replacing a toll booth in either direction.
While all this is a positive development, I was hoping Transurban would just make the entire M2 e-toll only, as it will eventually connect to the Lane Cove Tunnel and Transurban’s own Westlink M7 at either end, both of which will feature full electronic tolling.
This would completely eliminate the need to slow down and the potentially dangerous merging traffic situation I mentioned earlier.
Ideally, full electronic tolling would also allow distance-based tolling introduced on the M2 — at the moment it doesn’t really seem value for money to pay the full $3.80 just to travel between Beecroft Rd and Lane Cove. It’d also open up the possibility of constructing west-facing ramps at the Beecroft Rd and Windsor Rd interchanges for future Westlink M7-bound traffic.
But hey, it’s still a welcome start!
[there are follow-ups to this entry -- see all posts tagged with both M2 Motorway and electronic tolling]