A second stage of the east-west link – connecting the Tullamarine Freeway to the Western Ring road – has been been placed on the political agenda, with Premier Napthine declaring Saturday's federal election result a vindication for the controversial project.
In an interview with The Age, Dr Napthine also said he was confident he could convince the Commonwealth to stump up cash for the $9 billion metro rail tunnel, despite Tony Abbott insisting there will be no federal money for public transport.
Highlighting large swings to the Coalition across a swath of federal seats east of the city, Dr Napthine said it was clear the east-west link had been at the forefront of voters' minds following Mr Abbott's promise of $1.5 billion for the project.
Contracts to begin the first stage of the road, a 5.2-kilometre link connecting the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway, are due to be signed weeks before the 2014 state election. Until now, a longer second stage, running across the bottom of Kensington and Footscray to complete Melbourne's freeway network, has been little discussed.
Mapping out an ambitious infrastructure agenda, Dr Napthine said the government was now ''very, very keen'' to pursue the second stage, revealing the project will be considered in 2014 in the lead-up to the state election.
''We are looking at, in the next three to five years – or perhaps even earlier – how we get stage 2 of east-west link,'' he said. ''We are very keen to pursue the opportunities to get the next stage, both linking to the port and, of course, out through the western suburbs to the Western Ring Road. We are very, very keen to pursue that.''
Mr Abbott has promised $1.5 billion for the first stage of the road, which is expected to cost between $6 billion and $8 billion.
After extensive focus group research, the Victorian Labor opposition recently announced it was unambiguously opposed to the first stage of the project, creating a clear battle line for next year's election.
But questions remain about the government's ability to deliver the metro rail link, which it has described as Victoria's most important public transport project. It follows confirmation the incoming federal government will scrap $75 million to begin planning work for the tunnel.
Dr Napthine, who has been keen to avoid a road-versus-rail debate, said he was confident of convincing the Commonwealth to fund the project, which is seen as necessary before a host of other transport projects can begin, including the Doncaster and Rowville lines, and a link to the airport.
''We are convinced we can get funding,'' he said.
''We will make the argument … it is a rail capacity project, it is about increasing capacity on our rail system, not just for metropolitan rail but for rail freight, particularly the service port of Hastings and also for V-Line services, particularly for Gippsland.''
Describing the Victorian result as a bloodbath for Labor, Dr Napthine said there was a clear link between state Labor's decision to oppose the road and a deterioration in its electoral fortunes.
''A few months ago Victoria was seen as being the best state for Labor, and Queensland and NSW were going to be where the bloodbath occurred,'' he said.
''But we've had the biggest swing on the mainland against Labor here in Victoria. The big change in that time is Labor opposing east-west link.''