Motorists have been given the green light to drive at 100kmh along the Tullamarine tollway for three more hours a day, in a major win for tens of thousands of drivers.
From Tuesday, motorists could drive at 100kmh as early as 9pm rather than 11pm on weekdays, and as early as 8pm rather than 10pm on weekends, cutting almost two minutes off journey times.
And when conditions allow, the 100kmh limit will apply up to 6am, rather than 5am, on weekdays, and up until 9am on Sundays.
The move, after the success of a trial of the higher limits during widening of the tollway, has led to calls for higher limits at all times.
Speeds were to have been capped at 80kmh along the road, which along its busiest section carries 210,000 vehicles a day, even after the CityLink Tullamarine Widening Project has been completed.
But after a strong public backlash from disgruntled drivers, Transurban and VicRoads announced it would test higher speed limits off-peak, between the Bolte Bridge and Bulla Rd.
That trial is now being expanded.
RACV general manager of public policy Bryce Prosser said the organisation now wanted to see dynamic speed limits introduced at all times when it was safe to do so.
“A dynamic 100kmh does not transform the freeway into a speedway. Instead, it creates a road and driving behaviour that adjusts to conditions,” he said.
“Airport travel times have been a bugbear for years.
“Adjusting speeds can cut times and help motorists plan their journey,” he said.
When roadworks are finished the speed limit between Melbourne Airport and Melrose Drive will revert to 100kmh. Dynamic speed zones will apply between Melrose Drive and Bulla Rd.
If the trial continues motorists could potentially travel all the way from the city to the airport at 100km/h at of the day at peak-peak periods once the widening project is completed.
Transurban’s state general manager of operations, Phil Naulls, said new lanes and higher speeds meant drivers were experiencing quicker and smoother trips.
He said: “We’ll continue to monitor the trial and dynamically increase speeds when the conditions are right so people can get to where they need to be as safely and efficiently as possible.”
Travel times have also fallen for peak-hour drivers as new lanes have opened.
“Drivers who travel between Melbourne Airport and Bolte Bridge at 8am have nearly halved their travel time and increased their average speed up to 74kmh,” Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said.
The CityLink Tulla Widening Project is on track to be finished this year.
“This project has boosted capacity and also allowed us to install a smart, managed motorway system along the entire Tullamarine Freeway corridor so we can dynamically control speed limits and keep traffic moving in the event of an incident, project director Dipal Sorathia said.