Hurry-up call for high­way project

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

AWim­mera mu­nic­i­pal leader has called for the state and-or fed­eral govern­ments to ‘get back on track’ and com­plete a dual-car­riage­way on the Western High­way be­tween Ballarat and Stawell.

North­ern Grampians mayor Kevin Er­win, of Stawell, said he wel­comed de­vel­op­ments al­low­ing work to pro­ceed be­tween Buan­gor and Ararat.

But he stressed the project was now three years be­hind sched­ule and in des­per­ate need of money.

Cr Er­win said he was pleased work could pro­ceed af­ter the State Gov­ern­ment re­sponded to Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity con­cerns by chang­ing a high­way-du­pli­ca­tion route.

“Work can now fi­nally start again – it’s been a long and ar­du­ous road with not much hap­pen­ing,” he said.

“The project was launched at the start of the decade and sup­posed to be com­pleted in 2016. But it’s half-built and three-years be­hind.”

Cr Er­win, also on a mu­nic­i­pal Western High­way Ac­tion Com­mit­tee in­volv­ing coun­cils from across western Vic­to­ria, said there was still a need for pre-con­struc­tion money for an Ararat to Stawell sec­tion of the project.

“Hope­fully that will be forth­com­ing. Much of the money that was avail­able ran out last month,” he said.

“There is an ab­so­lute need to get on with it. The Western High­way is the sec­ond busiest high­way in Vic­to­ria, sec­ond only to the Hume, and this project needs to get back on track and make up for lost time.

“The pow­ers that be need to shore up the money needed and get this thing built.”

The fed­eral and state govern­ments com­mit­ted $672.3-mil­lion for the high­way du­pli­ca­tion be­tween Ballarat and Stawell to im­prove road safety across Western Vic­to­ria.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment pro­vided $501.3-mil­l­lion and the State Gov­ern­ment $171-mil­lion.

“There’s not a cent avail­able yet for any work be­tween Ararat and Stawell. It’s been very frus­trat­ing,” Cr Er­win said.

De­sign changes

The State Gov­ern­ment con­firmed this week it had worked with the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity to com­plete dual-car­riage­way align­ment de­sign changes to en­sure the re­ten­tion of two cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant trees east of Ararat. The re­align­ment in­cludes about one kilo­me­tre of ‘lo­calised’ de­sign changes to avoid the two trees.

Vic­to­rian Trans­port In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Jac­inta Al­lan said work would recom­mence pro­gres­sively along the align­ment, adding the project had over­whelm­ing sup­port from the district com­mu­nity and that it would pro­vide a vi­tal boost to the re­gional econ­omy.

“We un­der­stand how im­por­tant th­ese trees are to the In­dige­nous com­mu­nity, which is why we’ve lis­tened and made th­ese changes to the Western High­way align­ment to re­tain them,” she said.

“We’ve worked through this is­sue at ev­ery level and, with cul­tural and en­vi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­i­ties firmly in mind, work will now recom­mence on this long-awaited project.”

Ms Al­lan said the project area be­tween Ararat and Buan­gor had been sub­ject to com­pre­hen­sive plan­ning, which had in­cluded an in­de­pen­dent En­vi­ron­ment Ef­fects State­ment and Cul­tural Her­itage Man­age­ment Plan which ob­tained ap­proval in ac­cor­dance with the Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Act.

Dur­ing the past five years there have been 92 crashes on the Western High­way be­tween Ballarat and Stawell, in­clud­ing 10 fa­tal­i­ties and 50 se­ri­ous in­juries.

Ma­jor Road Projects Vic­to­ria is in charge of the high­way du­pli­ca­tion project.

Cr Er­win said he was try­ing to ar­range a meet­ing with Ms Al­lan.

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