Tullamarine Freeway

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Tullamarine Freeway

Tullamarine Freeway viewed from Melrose Drive overpass.jpg
Tullamarine Freeway looking north from Melrose Drive overpass at Essendon Fields
Tullamarine Freeway is located in Melbourne
Northwest end
Northwest end
Southeast end
Southeast end
General information
Length9.5 km (5.9 mi)[1]
Route number(s) M2 (2018–present)
route number
  • State Route 43 (1989-2018)
    Entire route
  • Freeway Route 81 (1970-1987)
    (Melbourne Airport-Travancore)
  • State Route 40 (1989-2020)
    (Essendon North-Pascoe Vale South)
  • State Route 40 (1970-1989)
    (Melbourne Airport-Pascoe Vale South)
  • National Route 79 (1970-2013)
    (Essendon North-Travancore)
Major junctions
Northwest end Sunbury Road
Tullamarine, Melbourne
Southeast end CityLink
Strathmore, Melbourne
Major suburbs / townsGladstone Park, Essendon
Highway system

The Tullamarine Freeway (commonly referred to as "The Tulla"), is a major urban freeway in Melbourne, linking Melbourne Airport to the Melbourne City Centre. It carries up to 210,000 vehicles per day and is one of Australia's busiest freeways. The entire stretch of the Tullamarine Freeway bears the designation M2 (previously State Route 43 from 1989 to early 2018).


The Tullamarine Freeway starts just outside Melbourne Airport, where it intersects with Sunbury Road, and runs southeast as a six-lane dual-carriageway freeway through Gladstone Park, eventually meeting with the Western Ring Road in a major interchange. Heading further south as eight lanes, it skirts the western and southern boundaries of Essendon Airport through Airport West, where it meets the Calder Freeway and widens further to ten lanes. East of the intersection with Bulla Road, it officially becomes CityLink's Western link,[4] running south to eventually meet the West Gate Freeway in Port Melbourne: before being subsumed into CityLink in 1999, the southern end of the Tullamarine Freeway ran south through the Moonee Ponds Creek reserve to terminate just north of central Melbourne in Parkville.

The section through Airport West is frequently congested due to the combination of freight traffic to/from the Hume Highway (accessed from the Western Ring Road interchange), and traffic to/from the airport.[citation needed] The usual peak period travel time is between 19 and 30 minutes.[citation needed] It is usually around 19 minutes for the majority of the daylight hours inbound, because at the southern end of CityLink there is only one lane to merge with the West Gate Freeway city-bound, hence slowing traffic over the Bolte Bridge section.[citation needed] However, during times of extreme congestion, including being residual due to an incident, the travel time can well exceed half an hour.[citation needed]


The Tullamarine Freeway is one of the oldest freeways in Melbourne. The core of the freeway through Airport West began as a deviation of Lancefield Road from the north-west of Essendon Airport, constructed during the 1945/46 financial year as a new single carriageway along the western and southern boundaries of the airport, east of the existing service road (today Matthews Avenue) and tram-way, totalling 2.5 miles (4.0 km), planned to reconnect at Sunbury Road (today Bulla Road) in Essendon North.[5] A satisfactory alignment at the eastern end could not be obtained without the demolition of numerous residences however, therefore only the 1.5 miles (2.4 km) section following the western boundary of the aerodrome was constructed, with a temporary connection to Melbourne-Bendigo Road (today Keilor Road) via Treadwell Road, Essendon North;[5] the rest of the deviation to Sunbury Road was built during the 1959/60 financial year as a dual-carriageway road.[6] Lancefield Road was progressively duplicated during the 1960s, including from Treadwell Road to north of Vaughan Street,[7] and from Hawker Street to Parer Road.[8]

The first stage of construction on a new Tullamarine By-pass Road[8] was completed in the 1965/66 financial year, between Mickleham Road and "the Tullamarine Jetport Terminal area" (Tullamarine Airport),[8] with the initial 4.5-mile (7.2 km) section between Tullamarine Airport and Lancefield Road at the north-western corner of Essendon Airport officially opening early in 1968.[9] From Essendon, a new section heading east from Lancefield Road at Bulla Road, over Pascoe Vale Road, to link directly with Bell Street, incorporating 2 miles of divided road and 4 miles of ramps and known at the time as Strathmore By-pass Road, began construction early in 1968,[9] with further construction to extend the freeway south along the Moonee Ponds Creek reserve to Mount Alexander Road at Flemington Bridge, carried out by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW). All three sections - the Tullamarine By-pass Road, the Strathmore By-pass Road, and the MMBW's southern extension to Flemington Bridge - were officially opened as the Tullamarine Freeway on 3 February 1970, by Premier of Victoria Sir Henry Bolte MLA, in time for the official opening of Tullamarine Airport (now renamed Melbourne Airport) in mid-1970;[10] this new section replaced Mount Alexander Road as the main route to the city.[citation needed] In 1974, the section constructed by the MMBW was transferred to be under the direct responsibility of the Country Roads Board; the Board's declaration of the Tullamarine Freeway was extended to Flemington Bridge as a direct result.[11] In 1979, the section of Lancefield Road running along the western edge of Essendon Airport was upgraded to freeway standard, with the elimination of all at-grade intersections (at English and Vaughan Streets, and an access road to Matthews Avenue near Parer Road), and the opening of a grade-separated, diamond-interchange with English Street, effectively completing the freeway.[12]

With its completion, city-bound heavy vehicles from Hume Highway were diverted here via Pascoe Vale Road. In the 1990s, the completion of the Western Ring Road increased traffic tremendously. It was only relieved by the completion of CityLink in 1999, widening the freeway to 8 lanes (two of these being transit lanes) and extending it south to the West Gate Freeway at Port Melbourne.[citation needed] The improved sections, starting east of Bulla Road, were subsumed into CityLink as the northern half of the Western link, and are now tolled.[13]

Lancefield Road was signed as State Route 40 between Essendon North and Tullamarine in 1965, with State Route 40 continuing north along Sunbury Road to eventually terminate in Bulla. When the Tullamarine By-pass Road opened in 1968 between Essendon Airport and Tullamarine Airport, State Route 40 was re-routed onto the new freeway. It was re-routed again from Bell Street onto the Strathmore By-pass Road section of the freeway, once it and the Bell Street interchange opened in 1970. Once the Tullamarine Freeway southern extension opened in 1970, the entire freeway from Tullamarine to Travancore was signed as Freeway Route 81, sharing concurrency with State Route 40 from Tullamarine to Pascoe Vale South, and also another concurrency with National Route 79 from Essendon North to Travancore once the Calder Freeway bypass of Niddrie opened in 1972. State Route 40 was re-routed onto Calder Freeway in 1989: State Route 43 replaced it from Essendon North to Tullamarine in 1989, while Freeway Route 81 was abolished in the same year. When CityLink opened in 1999, State Route 43 was extended along the entire freeway, including the Western link, to its end in Port Melbourne. With Victoria's conversion to the newer alphanumeric system in the late 1990s, the vestige of State Route 79 was finally abolished in 2013 (Calder Freeway had already converted to M79 in 1997), and conversion of State Route 43 to route M2 began, finally completed in 2018. The concurrency with State Route 40 was abolished in 2020, when it was re-aligned to terminate at Bell Street interchange.

The freeway is used by Skybus Super Shuttle services to Melbourne Airport, and in 2002 the Victorian government contributed $3 million to a $10 million plan to expand and improve these services, after a feasibility study into an airport rail link found the number of passengers using a train would not make the scheme economically viable.[14]

The passing of the Road Management Act 2004[15] granted the responsibility of overall management and development of Victoria's major arterial roads to VicRoads: in 2004, VicRoads re-declared Tullamarine Freeway (Freeway #1810) from Melbourne-Lancefield Road (today Sunbury Road) at Melbourne Airport to Mount Alexander Road (sign-posted as Bulla Road) in Strathmore, south of Essendon Airport.[4]

Upgrades to the interchange with Calder Freeway were announced in January 2005,[16] which underwent dramatic reconstruction to alleviate congestion. Entry and exit ramps between both freeways were decommissioned and replaced, an additional two lanes inbound were added, with dedicated Bulla Road-Calder Freeway spurs to eliminate weaving, notorious for many accidents in the area;[17] the new inbound lanes towards the city were completed in October 2006 (ten months early), and new outbound lanes towards Melbourne airport were completed in February 2007 (five months early).[18][19] Another project completed later that year was a new bridge and northern entrance to the Essendon Airport through the interchange of Melrose Drive, to provide easy access for the people living in the northern suburbs to access the Essendon Airport district.[20] Both projects were planned, designed and constructed under an alliance agreement between VicRoads, Baulderstone Hornibrook and Parsons Brinckerhoff.[18]

Timeline of construction[edit]

  • 1945/46 – Lancefield Road deviation, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of new road constructed along the western boundary of Essendon Aerodrome, from the original Lancefield Road alignment north-west of the airport to Treadwell Road, Essendon North[5]
  • 1959/60 – Lancefield Road deviation, 1 mile (1.6 km) of new dual-carriageway road constructed along the southern boundary of Essendon Aerodrome, connecting the existing Lancefield Road deviation from Treadwell Road to Sunbury Road (today Bulla Road), Essendon North[6]
  • 1963/64 – Lancefield Road duplication, 1.1 miles (1.8 km) from Treadwell Road to north of Vaughan Street, incorporating a junction with a future Calder Freeway[7]
  • 1965/66 – Lancefield Road duplication, 0.5 miles (800 m) from Hawker Street to Parer Road.[8]
  • 1965/66 – Tullamarine By-pass Road, 1.8 miles (2.9 km) of 4-lane dual-carriageway road completed from Mickleham Road to the "Tullamarine Jetport Terminal area"; at this stage, the airport interchange, bridges and access roads were still under construction.[8]
  • 1967/68 – Tullamarine By-pass Road, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) total officially opened to traffic between Tullamarine Airport and Lancefield Road at Essendon Airport.[9]
  • 1967/68 – Strathmore By-pass Road, 2 miles (3.2 km) of 4-lane dual-carriageway road from Lancefield Road at Bulla Road linking directly to a 2-level bridged interchange at Bell Street, commenced construction.[9]
  • 1970 – Tullamarine Freeway, 11 miles (18 km) opened early 1970, including the 2-mile (3.2 km) Strathmore By-pass Road, 5-mile (8.0 km) Tullamarine By-pass Road, and 3.5-mile (5.6 km) southern extension to Flemington Bridge built by the MMBW. Total cost: $14.94 million.[10]
  • 1974 – Tullamarine Freeway, responsibility for southern extension (from Bell Street interchange to Flemington Bridge) constructed by the MMBW transferred to Country Roads Board, 1 July 1974.[11]
  • 1979 – Lancefield Road, at-grade intersections eliminated, English Street interchange opened and last remaining 1.6 km upgraded to freeway standard, opened 18 December 1979, by Minister for Transport, the Hon Rob Maclellan MLA, at a cost of $7.8 million.[12]
  • 2006 – Tullamarine-Calder Interchange, re-construction of inbound lanes open October 2006.[18]
  • 2007 – Tullamarine-Calder Interchange, re-construction of outbound lanes open February 2007; combined with inbound lanes opening 5 months earlier in 2006, total package cost of $150 million.[18]

1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan[edit]

The freeway was originally designated in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan as the F14 Freeway corridor.[citation needed]

CityLink–Tulla Widening (2015–2018)[edit]

New ramp under construction at Bell Street as part of the CityLink Tulla Widening Project (2016)

Project Overview[edit]

In August 2015 a proposal to Widen the Citylink and Tullamarine Freeway was put in order which consists of 2 Stages which would increase the road's daily capacity as well as shorten trips between Melbourne Airport and The CBD During Morning Peak and Afternoon Peak Times.[citation needed] The following upgrades started in October 2015 (Stage 1) and May 2016 (Stage 2).[citation needed] The entire project was completed in late 2018.[citation needed]

Stage 1 (Bulla Road to Power Street)[edit]


  • Lane use management signs to manage which lanes are open
  • Variable speed limit signs above all lanes
  • Ramp signalling – stop and go traffic lights to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion as traffic enters the freeway from on-ramps
  • CCTV cameras – to monitor for incidents, help response times and minimise disruptions
  • Travel time information signs so people can plan their journey
  • Electronic message signs – to notify road users of planned changes or disruptions
  • Automatic incident detection system – to alert Road Managers incidents in real time
  • 2 Dedicated Lanes Inbound to Bell Street from the Tullamarine Freeway and Calder Freeway
  • New Bell Street to Pascoe Vale Road
  • Improvements To Flemington Road/ Mount Alexander Road Freeway Interchange
  • Additional Outbound Lane Between Moreland and Ormond Road
  • Ramp Widening Between Bolte Bridge and West Gate Freeway
  • One Additional Inbound Lane between Montague Street and Ingles Street
  • One Additional Inbound Lane between Montague Street and Power Street

Stage 2 (Melbourne Airport to Bulla Road)[edit]


  • A new structure with dedicated lanes from the Tullamarine Freeway and Mickleham Road to the M80 Ring Road inbound to ease congestion and reduce traffic weaving
  • An extra lane entering the Tullamarine Freeway city bound from Mickleham Road
  • Reconstruction and widening of the English Street overpass and all ramps to increase capacity into and out of Essendon Fields
  • Ramp signals on the city bound entry from Kings Road in Taylors Lakes to the Tulla Calder interchange to regulate the flow of traffic getting onto the Tullamarine Freeway from the Calder Freeway

Extra Lanes[edit]

Part of The Upgrade is adding more lanes between Melbourne Airport and the West Gate Freeway. Between The Citylink (Western Link) and The West Gate Freeway one additional lane in each direction will be added consuming the current emergency lanes as well as lower the current speed limit from 100 km/h down to 80 km/h.[citation needed] New Emergency Stopping Bays Similar to the Monash Freeway's Emergency Stopping Bays will be provided where Possible.[citation needed]

Exits and interchanges[edit]

HumeMelbourne Airport00.0 Sunbury Road (C743 north) – Bulla, SunburyNorth-western freeway terminus: continues as Sunbury Road
Centre Road – Melbourne AirportNorthbound entry and southbound exit only
0.950.5919 Terminal Drive/Melbourne Drive – Melbourne Airport Terminals 1/2/3Northbound exit and southbound entry only
18 Mercer Drive, to Airport DriveMelbourne Airport Terminal 4Northbound exit and southbound entry only
WestmeadowsTullamarineGladstone Park tripoint3.32.117 Mickleham Road (State Routes 39/48 north, 39 south) – Tullamarine, Mickleham
Hume–Moreland boundaryTullamarine–Gladstone Park–Gowanbrae tripoint5.13.216 Western Ring Road (M80) – Seymour, Bendigo, GeelongNo access north-eastbound to southbound or northbound to south-westbound
Moonee ValleyAirport WestStrathmore HeightsEssendon Fields tripoint6.33.915Melrose Drive (northwest) – Airport West
Wirraway Road (southeast) – Essendon Airport
No entry northbound; southbound exit to Wirraway Road only
Airport WestEssendon Fields boundary7.54.714 English Street – Airport West, Essendon Airport
Airport West–Essendon Fields–NiddrieEssendon North quadripoint8.65.313 Calder Freeway (M79) – Keilor, Bendigo, Avalon AirportPartial Y interchange: south-eastbound entrance and north-westbound exit only
Essendon Fields–Essendon North–Strathmore tripoint9.55.912 Bulla Road (State Route 37 south) – Essendon, Moonee Ponds
CityLink (M2) – Docklands, Port MelbourneSouth-eastern freeway terminus: continues south as CityLink
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Google (26 October 2021). "Tullamarine Freeway" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  2. ^ Metropolitan Route Numbering System - 1989 Changes, Main Roads Victoria. Retrieved 4 September 2013.[self-published source]
  3. ^ National Routes, Main Roads Victoria. Retrieved 4 September 2013.[self-published source]
  4. ^ a b c VicRoads. "VicRoads – Register of Public Roads (Part A) 2015" (PDF). Government of Victoria. pp. 27–8. Archived from the original on 1 May 2020. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Country Roads Board Victoria. Thirty-Second Annual Report: for the year ended 30 June 1945". Country Roads Board of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 3 December 1945. pp. 6–7.
  6. ^ a b "Country Roads Board Victoria. Forty-Seventh Annual Report: for the year ended 30 June 1960". Country Roads Board of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 21 November 1960. p. 22.
  7. ^ a b "Country Roads Board Victoria. Fifty-First Annual Report: for the year ended 30 June 1964". Country Roads Board of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 23 December 1964. p. 10.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Country Roads Board Victoria. Fifty-Third Annual Report: for the year ended 30 June 1966". Country Roads Board of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 4 February 1967. pp. 11, 18, 47, 52.
  9. ^ a b c d "Country Roads Board Victoria. Fifty-Fifth Annual Report: for the year ended 30 June 1968". Country Roads Board of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 6 January 1969. pp. 2–3, 14.
  10. ^ a b "Country Roads Board Victoria. Fifty-Seventh Annual Report: for the year ended 30 June 1970". Country Roads Board of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 14 January 1971. p. 20.
  11. ^ a b "Country Roads Board Victoria. Sixty-First Annual Report: for the year ended 30 June 1974". Country Roads Board of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 1 November 1974. p. 4.
  12. ^ a b "Country Roads Board Victoria. Sixty-Seventh Annual Report: for the year ended 30 June 1980". Country Roads Board of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 30 September 1980. p. 9.
  13. ^ VicRoads (23 September 2019). "About Victorias toll roads". VicRoads. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  14. ^ Better buses replace dumped rail link, The Age, 12 June 2002.
  15. ^ State Government of Victoria. "Road Management Act 2004" (PDF). Government of Victoria. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 October 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  16. ^ "VicRoads Annual Report 2004-05". VicRoads. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 23 August 2005. p. 34.
  17. ^ "Concept map with explanation" (PDF). Tullamarine-Calder Freeway Interchange Project. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 August 2006.
  18. ^ a b c d "VicRoads Annual Report 2006-07". VicRoads. Melbourne: Victorian Government Library Service. 24 August 2007. p. 38.
  19. ^ "Outbound Lanes Open: Stay Right for Tulla". Tullamarine-Calder Freeway Interchange Project. Archived from the original on 17 May 2007.
  20. ^ "Tullamarine-Calder Freeway Interchange Project". Archived from the original on 17 May 2007.
  21. ^ Victoria, Major Road Projects (29 November 2018). "Stage 1". roadprojects.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  22. ^ Victoria, Major Road Projects (29 November 2018). "Stage 2". roadprojects.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 26 August 2019.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°41′45″S 144°53′11″E / 37.69591°S 144.88632°E / -37.69591; 144.88632