Western Highway duplication campaign launched Wednesday

A CAMPAIGN aimed at securing $500 million for the continuation of the Western Highway duplication project will be launched in Ararat tomorrow.

Don't stall - fund to Stawell, a Western Highway Action Committee (WHAC) campaign, will be marked with a barbecue, large truck bumper stickers and a line-up of big trucks outside the Ararat Town Hall from noon on Wednesday September 3.

WHAC Chairman and Northern Grampians Shire Mayor Kevin Erwin said in the short term, the campaign aimed to secure around $150 million for a 12km stretch of duplication work between Pope Road, Buangor, and Warrayatkin Road east of Ararat in the lead up to the November state election.

Planning for this section is complete and the Federal Government has said it would commit funding on the proviso that the State Government also contribute to construction costs. However, the State is yet to commit any funds.

Cr Erwin said it was crucial to secure funding before the next state budget for the next section of the project before work on the current section wound down.

"There are huge costs associated with winding down and then restarting such a large-scale road works project so it makes sense to continue the work as soon as the current section is finished," he said.

"We need a funding commitment ASAP as the current section is due for completion in early 2016. If we don't get a commitment for this 12km section, the State Government will be looking at an even bigger bill to restart construction."

Cr Erwin said representatives from WHAC's 10 member councils, representatives from the Victorian Transport Association, truck drivers, vehicle drivers and community members would attend the launch next Wednesday. The launch is being held during TruckWeek 2014, a Victorian Trucking Association initiative that aims to highlight transport issues and celebrate the industry.

"We hope our state politicians are listening when we tell them just how vital this project is," he said.

"The Western Highway is the busiest single-lane highway in Victoria and is the workhorse of our state. Around 1,500 trucks and 4,000 cars travel the section west of Ballarat every single day, and there have been 11 fatalities and 80 people seriously injured along the section between Ballarat and Stawell in the past 18 months.

"It's unacceptable that such an important transport route hasn't yet had the funding commitment it deserves for the continuation of the duplication project. We need this funding now to secure the productivity of and road safety in our region."

Community members will be asked to join the campaign and display bumper stickers on their cars to help spread the message.

There has been 56km of duplication construction work funded to date, with the section to Buangor currently underway. Construction of the Buangor to Ararat and Ararat to Stawell sections is entirely unfunded even though planning is complete.

Around $500 million is needed to construct the duplication through to Stawell, with extra funding needed to construct bypasses around Ararat and Beaufort.

WHAC is made up of 10 councils from western Melbourne through to the South Australian border.

Don't stall - fund to Stawell bumper stickers can be collected from WHAC member councils - Northern Grampians Shire, Ararat Rural City, Pyrenees Shire, Horsham Rural City, Ballarat City, West Wimmera Shire, Hindmarsh Shire, Yarriambiack Shire, Moorabool Shire or the City of Melton.

The Don't stall - fund to Stawell launch will be held at the Ararat Town Hall, corner of Vincent and Barkly streets, Ararat, from 12 noon tomorrow.

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