CONSTRUCTION work on the Ararat bypass is still at least two years away according to VicRoads regional director Ewen Nevett.
Mr Nevett said VicRoads is still in the 'very early stages of preliminary planning', with community consultation only just beginning.
"We have done some desktop investigations and we are now consulting the community on the corridor of interest, which runs to the north side of Ararat," he said.
"The purpose of those conversations we are having with the community and landowners in that area of interest is to identify any particular issues that they know of, that we need to also be aware of when we go on to develop any alignments.
"There is no timeline from the planning to construction phase, because no funding has been allocated for construction yet, however money has been allocated for planning purposes, so the process is about identifying an alignment and getting that reserved in the Ararat Planning Scheme.
"It will take probably 18 months to finalise the alignment around Ararat by the time we go through this process and depending on whether we have to do an Environment Effects Statement. With all of that, we are certainly looking at a minimum of 12 to 18 months."
More than 100 Ararat residents took advantage of a VicRoads hosted 'drop-in' session at the Alexandra Oval's Community and Recreation Centre last Thursday, where information was provided on the general area of the intended bypass.
Mr Nevett said it was important to engage with the Ararat community right from the early stages so that they are aware of what is happening throughout the process.
"There have been no major issues raised, people have been providing us with some really useful feedback which we are taking into account," he said.
"Things such as items of heritage, environmental significance and really just information about what is important to them in terms of connection around Ararat.
"As we identify alignments, we will take those issues into account, such as where the bypass will connect to cross roads."
VicRoads has stressed that no specific alignment or any specific options had been put forward at the present time.
Mr Nevett said some residents may remember lines on a map (published in The Ararat Advertiser in March 2014) outlining the preferred route as determined by the Ararat Rural City Council, but he said they had just been developed to get a conceptual view of where the start and end points of the Western Highway duplication would be.
"There are no specific alignments within the area at this stage," he said.
"People might say they saw some alignments some time ago. Those lines drawn on a plan of the town were used to develop the corridor of interest and discount going to the south-west of Ararat, but basically those alignments are now no longer relevant without our studies.
"It might be that one of the lines we end up with is roughly like one of those initial lines, but that will just be coincidental."
Mr Nevett said the priority of VicRoads continues to be the duplication of the Western Highway through to Stawell, along with planning for the future Ararat and Beaufort bypasses.
Construction on a six and half kilometre Buangor bypass, to be built north of the township, will begin in March, while Federal and State Government duplication funding for the 12-kilometre stretch of road between Buangor and Ararat has been approved.
Mr Nevett said there are many benefits of constructing bypasses around towns that are aligned with the highway.
"We know that there are 6000 vehicles traveling on the Western Highway each day that have basically got a destination either side of Ararat," he said.
"Of that 6000, approximately 2000 are heavy vehicles so we will be taking that number of large transports out of through roads in Ararat which will improve the liveability, the noise issues, pollution and most importantly safety of residents.
"It also allows the economy and tourism opportunities within Ararat to be revitalised and to be reconfigured as a town that doesn't have all this heavy traffic passing through."