Duplication push for Western Highway

Northern Grampians Shire Mayor Cr Kevin Erwin is continuing to push for funding for the Western Highway duplication to extend to Stawell.

Northern Grampians Shire Mayor Cr Kevin Erwin is continuing to push for funding for the Western Highway duplication to extend to Stawell.

NORTHERN Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin is leading a concerted push to ensure the duplication of the Western Highway can continue through to Stawell.

So critical is the need for a commitment of future funding the Mayor has written to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, Roads Minister Terry Mulder and eight municipal councils between Beaufort and the South Australian border requesting a meeting at Parliament House in Melbourne this month.

As it stands the future of the project is uncertain with neither the State or Federal Governments committing to funding the duplication beyond west of Buangor, which is set for completion at the end of 2016.

Cr Erwin said the future of the major infrastructure project has reached a critical juncture.

"We need to stress upon them how important it is that we are given some funding in the next round of budgets. It is critical, it has got to that stage," he said.

"I think people just thought oh yes it is going to happen, but the financial situation has changed, it has got a bit tighter."

Cr Erwin has written to Melton City, Moorabool Shire, City of Ballarat, Pyrenees Shire, Ararat Rural City, Northern Grampians Shire, Horsham Rural City, Hindmarsh Shire and West Wimmera Shire councils.

He said the councils will present as a united front at the proposed meeting and call on the state government to do its bit to guarantee the project's future.

"It does need to be in the 2015/16 budget otherwise the project will wind down and stop, that is the seriousness of it and I've expressed it to both state and federal governments," Cr Erwin said.

"Preliminary works such as shifting power lines and fencing have to be done before any construction can take place and you need that money rolling forward to allow those works to actually happen.

"Obviously with pretty tight budgetary constraints around both state and federal governments we've decided to go for a smaller chunk, which would take it west of Buangor to Ararat.

"We know there are a number of priority projects, we just have to convince them that this is a very important project, which it is."

The Australian ($404 million) and Victorian ($101 million) Governments have so far committed $505 million to the Western Highway duplication.

The current project will complete planning from Ballarat to Stawell and duplicate about 56 kilometres from Ballarat through to Buangor (Pope Road, west of Buangor), including a Buangor bypass.

A spokesman for the Victorian Transport Minister, Terry Mulder said the duplication of the Western Highway beyond Buangor will be considered in the context of future funding programmes.

"Why spend money on half a project? You're not achieving the cost/benefit ratios that you originally set out," Cr Erwin said.

"I mean the justification for Stawell was done about six years ago and they (the governments) accepted that."

In May, the Australian ($3 million) and Victorian ($1 million) Governments also committed $4 million to undertake planning for bypasses of the townships of Beaufort and Ararat with works to get underway in coming months.

The contract for the Buangor bypass is expected to be awarded by the end of 2014.

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