Hurry-up call for highway project
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.
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.