Web_D013613THE plans are in for the Leongatha Heavy Vehicle Alternate Route. The designs were presented to council at a briefing session on Wednesday after almost three years in planning, though discussions for a heavy vehicle bypass have been going for more than 30 years. The planned realignment of the South Gippsland Highway is estimated to take at least 600 heavy vehicles off Bair Street every day. Currently there are 900 trucks on Bair Street daily.

Instead, it will direct traffic through a right of way arrangement down Anderson Street (South Gippsland Highway), into Long Street, across Ogilvy Street and reconnect on Koonwarra Road (the highway). South Gippsland Shire Council planning manager Paul Stampton said the highway as the priority road will ensure traffic is not banked up along Anderson Street-Roughead Street (Bass Highway, South Gippsland Highway intersection) waiting to turn right. Instead, traffic from Roughead/McCartin Street (Bass Highway) will need to give way at the intersection. At the Ogilvy Street intersection traffic from Bair Street would need to give way to the Koonwarra Road, Long Street priority roads. There will be traffic islands at Ogilvy Street, and a slight re-alignment of land. The land, which was previously a butter factory, is already owned by VicRoads.

Mr Stampton agreed council, as the operator of school crossings, would need to consider arrangements for students who walk the route from the education precinct to town. Footpaths have also been identified as essential works along Long Street. VicRoads’ acting regional director Brendan Pauwels noted retro-fitting traffic lights, if necessary, could be easily done. Once the heavy vehicle route is in place, plans to revitalise Bair Street as a major shopping precinct could begin. Initial plans show 40 degree parking, traffic calming measures, outdoor seating and beautification. None of the plans have been costed. Mr Stampton said the anticipated cost was around $4 to $5 million.

A full bypass of the town was estimated to cost $50 to $100 million and unlikely to get funding. South Gippsland Shire Council will start seeking funding for construction. Construction of the route is expected to take between 18 months and two years. Public sessions will be held this month for residents to suggest changes, identify issues and ask questions about the route. “Local intel would really help with solutions on this plan,” Mr Pauwels said. The first session will be held on Tuesday, September 10 with a drop in session at council chambers from 2pm to 7pm. The State Government provided VicRoads with $270,000 in December 2011 to complete a detailed planning study for the alternate heavy vehicle route. Gippsland South MP Peter Ryan said with the alternate heavy vehicle route for Leongatha now selected, future development and growth in Leongatha can now proceed with greater certainty.  “It will enable the South Gippsland Shire Council to plan for changes to parking and landscaping along Bair Street, providing improved amenity and shopping conditions for both the local community and tourists.”

Mr Ryan said VicRoads had considered a number of options and alignments during this planning project, and had taken into consideration safety, environmental constraints, heritage, land acquisition, traffic engineering requirements and social impacts.  “The chosen alignment uses existing roads and provides the best solution in terms of cost, time and safety,” Mr Ryan said.    “It also means there will be minimal impact on adjoining properties, and by using the existing road network, it would not require a Planning Scheme Amendment to proceed.”
Mr Ryan said developing plans for an alternate heavy vehicle route for Leongatha was an important and much needed project. “Leongatha is one of the region’s most vibrant communities and the provision of a heavy vehicle alternative route is a priority for the future development of the town,” Mr Ryan said.