West Gate Freeway

The West Gate Freeway[2] is a major freeway in Melbourne, the busiest urban freeway and the busiest road in Australia, carrying upwards of 200,000 vehicles per day. It links Geelong (via the Princes Freeway) and the Western suburbs to the Melbourne CBD and beyond. It is also a link between Melbourne and the west and linking industrial and residential areas west of the Yarra River with the city and port areas. The West Gate Bridge is a part of the freeway.

West Gate Freeway

General information
Length14 km (8.7 mi)
Route number(s)
route number
Major junctions
West end
East end
Major suburbs / townsAltona North, Spotswood, Port Melbourne
Highway system
West Gate Freeway citybound before the Williamstown Road interchange.
Interchange consisting of the Burnley Tunnel entrance, Domain Tunnel exit, Westgate freeway and Power Street/Kings Way ramps.

It is a fully managed freeway with a complete 'Freeway Management System' that is dynamically linked and adaptive to the entire M1 corridor. This includes the 2008 re-design of a substantial section. Overall, the freeway has between 4-6 lanes in each direction, with a maximum of 12 lanes at one point in its width.


The original Lower Yarra Freeway was officially designated in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan as the F9 Freeway corridor. Construction began on the first section in the late 1960s and was open to traffic by 1971,[3] stretching from the intersection of the Princes Highway and Little Boundary Road in Altona North (later enlarged and named the West Gate Interchange) eastwards to Melbourne/Williamstown Roads just west of the mouth of the Yarra, initially designated with an F-82 shield. At the time, the only way to cross the Yarra west of the CBD was via a ferry crossing, which naturally saw far heavier demands once the Lower Yarra Freeway was officially opened.

The West Gate Bridge across the Yarra had started construction not too long before the opening of the freeway and, although delayed, when finally completed in 1978[4] allowed the freeway to extend over the river and directly into the CBD's south-western corner (via Rogers and Lorimer Streets). The freeway's name was changed to the West Gate Freeway to commemorate its opening, but the freeway also attracted tolls from anyone using the bridge (between Melbourne/Williamstown Road and Rogers Street) between 16 November 1978 and 29 November 1985.[5] The toll plaza was located on the city side of the bridge where the service stations are now located.[6] National Route 1 - previously designated along Geelong Road (Princes Highway West) and through the CBD via Smithfield and Flemington Roads and King Street - was altered to use the freeway instead and rejoin Kings Way via Rogers, Lorimer and Clarendon Streets.

Timeline of constructionEdit

  • 1971 - 'Lower Yarra Freeway'. Original 4 miles opened from Princes Highway to Williamstown Road on 7 April 1971. Originally 3 lanes in each direction. Cost: $A14m.[3]
  • 1978 - West Gate Bridge. Opened 15 November 1978, by the Premier, the Hon. R J Hamer, ED, MP.[4]
  • 1990/1991 – ‘A third lane is being built in both directions on the West Gate Freeway between Princes Highway and Millers Road’.[7] This possibly conflicts with information given in the Country Roads Board's 58th Annual Report, which states that the freeway opened with three lanes in each direction in 1971, whilst omitting that the third lane only existed between Millers Road and Williamstown Road.[3]

Due to the extra traffic the West Gate Freeway was attracting—and due to the safety concerns of having excess traffic filter through connector streets in South Melbourne—the freeway was finally extended to Kings Way above the Grant Street intersection using elevated carriageways in 1987. Expansion of the original two lane freeway on the western side of the bridge to three lanes each way was carried out in 1993, and expansion to four lanes followed in 2000. With the subsequent completion of the Western Ring Road joining the West Gate Interchange to the freeway's west and CityLink to the freeway's east, it also funnels traffic from northern and western suburbs around Melbourne, acting as a bypass freeway.

The entire freeway has been given an M1 designation. It gains the Tourist 2 shield at the Melbourne/Williamstown Road interchange in Spotswood, and loses it at the Montague Street interchange in Port Melbourne.

2008 upgradeEdit

Traffic volumes on the West Gate Freeway have grown steadily since opening, carrying up to 180,000 vehicles every day. Congestion frequently occurs at the Montague Street and Bolte Bridge interchanges due to conflicting traffic movements on and off the freeway. On 1 May 2008 the Minister for Roads and Ports Tim Pallas announced design details for the West Gate Freeway improvements, to assist in maintaining rapidly growing volume capacity and to reduce congestion[8]

They are:

  • a full freeway management system, made up of Ramp Metering (Signalling), Lane Use Management Signs (overhead lane availability / variable speed zones), electronic on-road message signs, arterial road message signs, CCTV cameras and a suite of freeway traffic algorithms and software with data stations, thousands of sensors and a core server at the VicRoads TMC.
  • the addition of a new elevated road structure joining the outbound Kings Way on-ramp to the Freeway
  • new traffic ramps over Montague Street
  • an additional dedicated exit ramp from the Bolte Bridge to the Freeway
  • widening of the freeway between Todd Road and Montague Street
  • redesign of the Montague Street interchange.

These works help reduce merging and weaving movements at key points on the freeway, leading to a smoother traffic flow and improved driver safety. As part of the works the Montague Street on-ramp city bound had been closed for approximately 18 months to enable the new one to be built.[9]

Early works on the West Gate Freeway, including geo-technical investigations and service proving, commenced in late 2007. In early 2008 construction works started on the freeway widening, specifically in the South Melbourne area. New traffic lanes and ramps have been completed and opened in different stages with the total project scheduled for completion in late 2010.

The Freeway Upgrade was awarded the 2011 Australian Construction Achievement Award.[10]


Road conditionsEdit

The West Gate Freeway officially begins at the West Gate Interchange in Altona North, with four lanes running in each direction. The freeway flows from the Western Ring Road and the Princes Freeway with access to the Princes Highway (Geelong Road) also provided with city bound exit and Geelong bound entry ramps.

Soon after the bridge crossing, the freeway becomes elevated for its remaining length, with access ramps to Melbourne's central business district. Continuing to drive eastward on the freeway after the Power Street exit results in entering the electronically tolled CityLink, and travelling through the Burnley Tunnel.

Standard travel time on the West Gate Freeway in both directions, is 12 minutes. (5 minutes from the Western Ring Road to Williamstown Road and 7 minutes from Williamstown Road to Kings Way).

The usual peak period travel time, is between 16–24 minutes. However, in times of extreme congestion, including being residual due an incident, the travel time can go well beyond half an hour.

Exits and interchangesEdit

Domain Tunnel (westbound M1  ) and Burnley Tunnel (eastbound M1  ). West Gate Freeway continues as CityLink eastward  .
MelbourneSouthbank00.0W1Power Street - MelbourneEastbound exit and westbound entrance
00.0W2 Kings Way/Princes Highway - Melbourne
10.62W3   Montague Street - Port MelbourneStart of concurrency of Tourist Drive 2  .
Port Melbourne1–
W4   CityLink - Melbourne AirportTrumpet interchange with local-express lanes. Westbound exit on local lanes.
W5Todd RoadWestbound exit part of local lanes containing exit W4.
Yarra River6.4–
West Gate Bridge
Hobsons BaySpotswood74.3W6   Williamstown Road - Scienceworks MuseumEnd of concurrency of Tourist Drive 2  
Altona North106.2W7  Millers Road
127.5W8  Grieve ParadeWestbound exit and eastbound entrance.
127.5W9  Princes HighwayEastbound exit and westbound entrance.
138.1W10  M80 Ring Road, Melbourne - MelbourneWest Gate Freeway continues to Geelong as Princes Freeway westward  .
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ F82 via West Gate Freeway, Main Roads Victoria. Retrieved 4 September 2013.[self-published source]
  2. ^ M1 West Gate Freeway - Gateway to Melbourne's West, Main Roads Victoria. Retrieved 4 September 2013.[self-published source]
  3. ^ a b c Country Roads Board Victoria. Fifty-eighth Report: for the year ended 30 June 1971. Burwood, Victoria: Brown, Prior, Anderson, 1971. p. 2
  4. ^ a b Country Roads Board Victoria. 66th Annual Report. 1978-1979. Kew, Victoria: Country Roads Board Victoria, 1979. p. 9
  5. ^ "M1 West Gate Freeway". mrv.ozroads.com.au. Retrieved 13 May 2008.[self-published source]
  6. ^ "Miscellaneous:1977. West Gate Bridge Toll Plaza". picturevictoria.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  7. ^ VicRoads. VicRoads Annual Report, 1990-1991, Kew, Victoria: VicRoads, 1991, p. 39
  8. ^ "Media Release from the Minister for Roads and Ports: M1 UPGRADE STARTS TO TAKE SHAPE" (PDF). mcwupgrade.com.au. 1 May 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  9. ^ "May 2008 - M1 upgrade starts to take shape". Monash - CityLink - West Gate upgrade. mcwupgrade.com.au. Archived from the original on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  10. ^ "2011 Winner". Australian Construction Achievement Award. Retrieved 9 September 2011.

External linksEdit