REGION - Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin, has vowed to continue lobbying for funding from both the Federal and State Governments to ensure the completion of the Western Highway duplication project to Stawell.
Cr Erwin, who is also chairman of the Western Highway Action Committee, said he was disappointed with the outcome of the federal budget earlier this month, with no new funding committed towards the highway duplication.
He feared the project was not high on the priority list, but assured he would fight harder than ever before to secure the necessary funding to see the duplication to fruition.
"I actually spoke to the Deputy Prime Minister and said while we welcomed the $263.4 million Western Highway duplication funding announcement, that it was part of the original funding," Cr Erwin said.
"There was no new money committed to the duplication at all."
When the duplication of the Western Highway commenced, the federal government announced a commitment of $404 million towards the project. The Victorian Coalition pledged $101 million towards the total project cost of $505 million.
Cr Erwin said the federal budget announcement that $263.4 million would be allocated to the project, was merely a case of releasing the funding that had previously been committed.
"It was very disappointing from our point of view that there was no new money committed to the project," he said.
"However, we have vowed to continue our efforts to try and secure the funding that is necessary to see this project completed.
"We understand the state government has some big projects on the go at the moment, most importantly the East West Link.
"My concern is that this will soak up a fair proportion of the state's money and that will put them in a similar position to the federal government, where there will be no new money available for the Western Highway."
Cr Erwin said there may need to be a change of focus towards the completion of the Western Highway duplication all the way to Stawell.
"It (lack of funding) may mean we need to take smaller bites," he said.
"Hopefully that way, there will still be light at the end of the tunnel. If we can keep getting smaller amounts to keep the project moving along, it will be a lot better than having a section of highway duplicated and then work stopping for a period of time.
"I would rather see something happening all the time, even if it is in smaller sections, rather than seeing the project stalled for any length of time.
"Sure it will delay the completion of the project, but at least we will see it continuing to move."
Cr Erwin said planning had been completed for the duplication right through to Stawell, it was only a matter of funding being released to see it through.
"We just need the funding to make it happen," he said.
"It was pleasing that funding was announced for the completion of works between Beaufort and Buangor and also for the Buangor bypass. We just need to keep fighting to bring it further down the highway.
"The communication lines are still open and we will keep using them and continuing to take up the challenge of securing additional funding for the project."
The most recent funding announcement was for the duplication of a 15.5 kilometre section of highway between Beaufort and Buangor, along with the bypass at Buangor.
Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Jamie Briggs, said the additional funding would ensure the duplication of Section 2a can commence later this year.
Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the works would provide a four lane dual carriageway and a bypass north of Buangor.
"This important upgrade will improve road alignment standards and eliminate the need for vehicles to queue behind slow or turning vehicles," Mr Tehan said.
Victorian Minister for Roads Terry Mulder said that work continues to progress well on sections already under construction.
"Later this month, motorists will be moved onto a newly constructed 14 kilometre section between Burrumbeet and Trawalla," Mr Mulder said.
"This is the longest section to be opened since construction began in 2010, so it is a significant milestone for us."
The duplication of the Western Highway from Ballarat to Buangor is expected to be completed in late 2015.