Western Highway funding optimism

REGION - Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin, remains optimistic funding will be released to ensure the completion of the Western Highway duplication to Stawell.

Cr Erwin joined a delegation of Victorian mayors, including Ararat Mayor Cr Paul Hooper, and chief executive officers in Canberra last week to discuss the highway duplication and to push for funding to be allocated at both state and federal level.

Joining the delegation from Central Victoria were Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad and State Member for Western Victoria, David O'Brien.

Cr Erwin said he was delighted with the outcome of discussions with the Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss.

"We had a good hearing with the minister and came away feeling very positive," Cr Erwin said.

"The Federal Government wants to see the duplication take place as much as we do.

"The next step is to work with the State Government to ensure the Western Highway duplication project gets up to the highest priority."

Cr Erwin said there were genuine concerns that the duplication may be overshadowed by the East-West Link in Melbourne.

He said councils throughout the Wimmera were seeking commitments from both governments in this year's budgets to fund the project.

"At the end of our discussion with the federal minister, we asked what we should do. His response was to keep lobbying and that is exactly what we will do," Cr Erwin said.

"We understand we are never going to come away from these delegations with a lot of money in our pockets, but to be heard, to be given time to sit down and to get such a positive hearing was very pleasing from our point of view."

Cr Erwin said he was also delighted that David O'Brien and Andrew Broad were part of the delegation.

"It was great to have these two come in and bat for us," he said.

"They brought that local support with them to Canberra. It gave us three levels of government in the one room discussion the one issue."

Mr O'Brien said he was pleased to be given the opportunity take the case for next stage funding to Canberra this week, as part of a delegation of Western Victorian councils.

Accompanying regional mayors including Cr Robert Vance, Cr Paul Hooper and Cr Kevin Erwin, who is also chair of the Western Highway Action Committee, Mr O'Brien took with him a plan to press the case with federal ministers including Mr Truss.

"Primarily we are seeking the federal component to fund stages 2B and three of the project through to Stawell," Mr O Brien said

"These meetings are one part of a campaign for both continued duplication funding, and also for bypasses and associated planning to be funded for Beaufort and Ararat.

"We know that the Western Highway is the key transport corridor through Victoria's western district, including through Pyrenees Shire, Ararat Rural City and Northern Grampians Shire including Stawell. I've heard it expressed as "Highway 8 - Lifeblood of the State".

"With more than 2200 trucks travelling the highway west of Ballarat each day, safety is also a primary consideration, particularly with the amount of traffic expected to double by 2028.

"This project is vital for towns like Ballarat, Ballan, Beaufort, Buangor, Ararat and Great Western.

"Our second point will be that the scope of the current Western Highway Duplication Project does not include construction of a bypass of Ararat and Beaufort despite VicRoads studies clearly indicating significant benefit cost return ratios in doing so.

"I will continue to advocate for these two issues because funding would provide great benefits for Western Victoria, including revitalisation of industry and also improved road safety."

Ararat Rural City Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper was among a delegation that traveled to Canberra last week to discuss the Western Highway duplication.

Ararat Rural City Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper was among a delegation that traveled to Canberra last week to discuss the Western Highway duplication.


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