M1 Monash Freeway

History behind the freeway

History on the South Eastern Route

Highway 1 - Victoria | M1 Monash Fwy


Monash Freeway


The Monash Freeway (M1) is the major route to and from Melbourne’s southeast suburbs, paralleling the Princes Highway. The freeway extends from Toorak Rd at Malvern to the Princes Freeway at Narre Warren, a total of 33.8 km. Dual carriageways carry 3 lanes of traffic in either direction between Toorak Rd and the South Gippsland Freeway, while 2 lanes in either direction are provided further east to the Princes Fwy.


The Monash Freeway is one continuous freeway, however, it was made from the amalgamation of three different projects: the South Eastern Freeway (Batman Ave to Warrigal Rd); the Mulgrave Freeway (Warrigal Rd to South Gippsland Fwy); and the Hallam Bypass (Sth Gippsland Fwy to Princes Fwy). West of Toorak Rd the freeway has been incorporated into the Citylink tollway and no longer carries the Monash Freeway name.


For the purpose of this history I have divided the freeway into two separate sections - the Southern Eastern and Mulgrave Freeways - until they were united by name in 1988.

Article wrtten by Sam Laybutt.  


South Eastern Freeway/Arterial


Plans for this section of freeway, between Batman Ave and Warrigal Rd, Oakleigh, first appeared in the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission (MTPC) report 1929 Melbourne Plan of General Development.  Page 129 of the report mentions a “Gardiner Valley Parkway” as a ‘continuous strip of reserves’ along Gardiners Creek. Further to that, the report adds that “incorporated in this scheme is…a main road between the city and Oakleigh”. The proposed alignment followed the current alignment between Punt Road and East Malvern Railway Station, where it then turned south to link with the Princes Highway near Hyslop Parade.


The reservations for this route were subsequently included in the Metropolitan and Melbourne Board of Works’ Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme 1954 document. However, changes were made to both the eastern and western ends. The link between the freeway and the Princes Highway was relocated to between Warrigal Rd and Atkinson St. At the western end, the freeway route was extended to Swan Street Bridge and included a connection to the proposed inner ring road. The MMBW 1954 plan states that this route (and its continuation to Dandenong) was ‘one of the most essential of all the future road needs.’[1]


Until the Bolte government made the MMBW the main road authority for the metropolitan area in 1956, no single agency had the power or the resources needed to construct an urban freeway. Thus, the South Eastern Freeway was announced in 1958 as the first urban freeway in Victoria – the MMBW stating that it would provide a “clear run of four lanes” and could be constructed “with only minor encroachment on private property”.[2] The four-lane freeway was completed from Punt Road to Burnley St, Burnley, in 1962 and received the F-80 route marker from Swan Street to MacRobertson Bridge (Grange Rd) in 1965. Despite being constructed primarily to relieve local congestion in Alexandra Avenue, traffic conditions in the area generally worsened.[3]


In 1965 a four-lane extension of the freeway to Toorak Road was announced, generally following the alignment of Gardiners Creek, and was opened to traffic in 1969. Control of the freeway was later handed over to the Country Roads Board in July 1974.


The South Eastern Freeway project escaped culling from Premier Hamer in 1973 - his statement made no mention of an easterly extension of the freeway beyond Toorak Road. One month after Hamer’s announcement to cut Melbourne’s proposed freeway network in half, the Joint Road Planning Group submitted a recommendation supporting the extension of the freeway to Warrigal Road. Despite a ‘particularly bitter and sustained reaction from the community’,[4] Hamer signalled his government’s intention to construct the project in 1974 and received a supporting report from the CRB. Further protests ensued, and in 1975 the Minister for Transport announced an investigation into the need for that route. In 1976 the CRB’s List of Urgent Road Needs merely referred to the ‘Malvern Investigation Corridor’. It wasn’t until 1977 that the Government established a Gardiners Creek corridor study to conduct a multidisciplinary review, the review then proposing a six-lane freeway parallel to the rail line. The corridor study’s broad proposal was adopted by the Government in 1978, however, further study was undertaken to determine the exact alignment. The controversial route was supported by Lonie’s Victorian Transport Study in 1980 and was the subject of further unpublished governmental review during 1981/82.


The Labour Government of 1983 drew a compromise for the strong local opposition, announcing that the link would be constructed as an arterial road - not a freeway. This decision was later proven to be rather sneaky - designers ensured the road could be later converted to a freeway and induced traffic ensured the demand for a freeway surfaced. The construction of the arterial road was commenced in 1984 and completed in two stages, the first of which was opened between Toorak Rd and Burke Rd in September 1988 and the second of which reached Warrigal Road - at an at-grade intersection - in December 1988. It was at this time that the Mulgrave and South Eastern Freeways were united under the name ‘South Eastern Arterial’ - not freeway because of the at-grade intersections at Toorak Road, Tooronga Rd, Burke Rd and Warrigal Road. Also at this time, route F80 was decommissioned - along with route F81 which was the Mulgrave Freeway - to be replaced by National Route 1.


Mulgrave Freeway


Early planning for a route to Dandenong and beyond relied on the upgrading of Dandenong Road east of Oakleigh. It wasn’t until the Metropolitan Transport Committee’s Metropolitan Transport Study and associated plan was presented in 1969 that the Dandenong Road proposals were abandoned. A new route - F14 - was provided along the path of today’s freeway. A reservation already existed at this time thanks to the CRB’s pre-urban planning procedures which had secured land prior to its release as an urban development area. The reservation made use of an early State Electricity Commission transmission line reservation.


A prelude to the Mulgrave Freeway was the idea of ring road around Dandenong, which was in an advanced stage of planning by 1963. The ring road route included that of the future Mulgrave Freeway and the CRB began purchasing land for the reservation in 1964. The immediate motivation was to bypass Dandenong, which was considered to be a point of major congestion on the Princes Highway.


In 1969, the same year that the freeway appeared in a formal plan, work began on the first stage - between Stud Road and the Princes Hwy (at Doveton). This work was done under the Town Bypass legislation - which gave the CRB the power to construct controlled access roads - and this section of freeway was first known as the Mulgrave Bypass (Stud Rd to Laurel Ave) and the Eumemmering Bypass[5] (Laurel Ave to Princes Hwy). However, later in 1969 the Country Roads Act was amended to officially allow the CRB to construct freeways, meaning they could drop the ‘bypass’ pretence from the project and the Mulgrave Freeway name was born. The first stage of the freeway was opened on 21 November 1972 (Stud Road to South Gippsland Freeway) and was subsequently extended west in the ensuing years. The following stages of freeway went west to Springvale Road (December 1973), Blackburn Road (15 December 1976), Forster Rd (5 April 1977), Huntingdale Rd (12 December 1979) and finally to Warrigal Road on 24 June 1981. The Mulgrave Freeway was given the F81 route marker in 1973 and kept it until 1988 when the Mulgrave and South Eastern Freeways were united under the name of ‘South Eastern Arterial’ and National Route 1.


Post Unification


As one looks back at history it seems so obvious that the Mulgrave and South Eastern Freeways would one day be connected. Despite attempts from the Government to hide their intentions - giving the S.E. and Mulgrave Freeway different route markers was rather ingenious - they recognised that one day the public opposition to a road along Gardiners Creek would be outweighed by the need for traffic congestion relief. Even the Commonwealth Government recognised this, in the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads’ 1974 report Freeway Plans of State Capital Cities it is noted that “there are discontinuities at the western ends of freeways….F14 at Chadstone…where these end about 10 miles east of the central city. This requires further consideration.”[6]


The two freeways were joined by an arterial road, with at-grade intersections between Toorak Rd and Warrigal Rd, in December 1988. With that also came the unification of both name and number - the freeway was now known as ‘South East Arterial’ and carried the National Route 1 shield. All that was left to complete the 1969 plan was the removal of the at-grade intersections, and the Road Construction Authority - probably the Government too - knew it was only a matter of time before traffic congestion turned the public opposition into support. The first and most significant overpass - twin three lane bridges over Warrigal Rd at Chadstone - was opened in June 1994. The project was rounded off with the opening of overpasses at Tooronga Rd (January 1996), Burke Rd (March 1996) and Toorak Rd (May 1996). These overpasses finally provided one continuous freeway route from Melbourne to Dandenong and beyond. Thus the Arterial was renamed South Eastern Freeway.


In 1997, the South Eastern Arterial (the name at the time) for it's entire distance was rebadged as route M1 as part of the Statewide Route Numbering System, replacing the old National Route 1 designation.


On March 20 of the same year, the whole freeway was renamed the South Eastern Freeway, coincided with the completion grade separation of four former at-grade intersections, as mentioned before.


Dr Max Lay, in his book Melbourne Miles: the Story of Melbourne’s Roads, notes that the final solution was the same as what the road planners had originally advocated. He then poses the question: “Was this merely because their persistence had outlasted the community’s?”[7]


It should be noted that, as with most of Melbourne’s freeways, west of Huntingdale Road the reservation was created and protected, not by transport planners, but by the foresight of John Monash and his State Electricity Commission engineers when they established the metropolitan electricity transmission system in the early part of the 20th century. Thus it was fitting that the South Eastern Freeway’s name be changed once again to “Monash Freeway” on 16 June 1999 to honour the great surveyor and engineer who had helped pioneer the technology of reinforced concrete. Monash University vice-chancellor Peter Darvall says it is fitting that the university’s namesake be honoured in that way. “The freeway runs past the Anderson Street (Morell) Bridge, the first reinforced concrete bridge in Victoria, and past Scotch College, the school of which he was dux in 1881. The route proceeds through the City of Monash and past Monash University. Finally it leads to Gippsland where Sir John, as chairman of the State Electricity Commission, developed the Latrobe Valley coal fields into a source of power for Victoria."[8] As part of the renaming process, North Road and Wellington Road (between Nepean Highway and Stud Road) was stripped of its Monash Highway name.


It was also around this time that the Monash Freeway west of Toorak Road was incorporated into the City Link project - private consortium Transurban upgrading the freeway to have 5 and 6 lanes in return for tolling rights. This section of freeway is no longer known as Monash Freeway and will no longer be referred to as such in this article.


In April 2000 construction was commenced on the easterly extension of the freeway, 7.5km from the South Gippsland Freeway to the Princes Freeway at Narre Warren. The $165 million (2003) four-lane freeway was originally planned to be completed in December 2004 but a dry winter in 2002 and some rescheduling of contracts meant that the freeway was completed in July 2003 - 17 months earlier and $10 million (2003) cheaper than expected. This now means that the Monash Freeway stretches from Toorak Rd at Toorak to the Princes Fwy at Narre Warren, a distance of 33.8 km.


[1] Metropolitan and Melbourne Board of Works; Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme 1954; 1953; p. 100

[2] Dingle, T. and Rasmussen, C.; Vital Connections, Melbourne and its Board of Works 1891-1991; 1991; p. 148

[3] Lay, M.; Melbourne Miles, The Story of Melbourne’s Roads; 2003; p. 211

[4] Lay, M.; Melbourne Miles, The Story of Melbourne’s Roads; 2003; p. 213

[5] The Eumemmering Bypass is today’s South Gippsland Freeway and until July 2003 provided an important link between the Mulgrave (Monash) Freeway and the Princes Hwy at Doveton.

[6] Commonwealth Bureau of Roads; Freeway Plans of State Capital Cities; 1974; p. 10

[7] Lay, M.; Melbourne Miles: the Story of Melbourne’s Roads; 2003; p. 212

[8] Brown, D.; Naming honour for Monash in Monash News (Online) http://www.monash.edu.au/pubs/monmag/issue4-99/item-18.html; Accessed 8/6/2005

©  Main Roads Victoria Webmaster & Sam Laybutt . Last Update: 23/08/2006