THE body charged with assessing major national projects has thrown its support behind the proposed east-west link.
Infrastructure Australia's review of national infrastructure priorities, released on Friday, has called for the federal government to provide $30million towards further studies on top of the $15million already allocated by the state government.
Chairman Sir Rod Eddington said infrastructure must keep pace with demand to avoid traffic congestion, poor access to export gateways and missed economic opportunities.
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Infrastructure Australia backing is a crucial step to the project seeing light of day. Every ready-to-proceed project on its first priority list has since received funding.
Victorian Treasurer Kim Wells said the backing of the 18-kilometre underground link connecting the Eastern Freeway with the Western Ring Road added weight to calls for federal funding.
"Despite a lack of support from the Commonwealth, we are pushing ahead with the development of a business case for the east-west link and are well advanced with the preliminary technical investigations that began in May this year."
The project has become a hot-button issue for the Melbourne by-election ahead of this weekend's vote, with Labor battling a Greens assault on a seat it has held since 1905. Mr Wells said the federal government was reluctant to commit funding because of opposition from state Labor leader Daniel Andrews.
"Daniel Andrews has called east-west link a grand hoax, while Labor MPs Richard Wynne, Tim Pallas and Labor's candidate for the Melbourne by-election Jennifer Kanis have been outspoken about their opposition to the project."
Mr Andrews hasn't rejected the project outright, instead promising a fully costed and funded transport plan before the 2014 election.
Western Suburbs Greens MP Colleen Hartland, a vocal critic of the proposal, said Labor must be clearer about whether it supports or rejects the link. "The Gillard government now has to make it clear," she said.
"Will they fund Baillieu's dirty east-west tollway through the west or will they fund better public transport?
"[They should] get to work immediately on the Westgate ramps to get trucks off our streets and invest in our public transport system to get people moving, ease overcrowding and make travel more comfortable."
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has promised $1.5billion for the project if he becomes prime minister.
The Weekly has reported that LeadWest chief executive Anton Mayer welcomed the pledge, but he urged the western end of the project to be funded first.