IT IS the season for promises and this week, on the back of promises for the Port Welshpool Long Jetty, there was the announcement of $25 million for the South Gippsland Highway.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester joined McMillan MP Russell Broadbent, state government MPs and local government councillors to make the announcement.
Mr Chester said the $25 million would be allocated in “a re-elected Coalition Government budget”.
The announcement was made at the Black Spur bends between Koonwarra and Meeniyan however it is not certain how much, if any, would be spent on the section of the road.
Gippsland South MP Danny O’Brien said the funding would encourage the State Government to act.
“The intention is that a large amount would be used for the Black Spur South Gippsland Highway realignment,” Mr O’Brien said.
“However, the full amount would be subject to negotiations with the state.
“I’ve been fighting for this since I got elected and we’ve been successful in getting a business case [due end of 2016].
“Once that’s completed it’s a case of finding funding for it and that’s what Darren Chester and Russell Broadbent are doing – they’ve done the heavy lifting from their side and that should make it much easier for the State Government to match the funding.
“Instead of having to find $51 million [for the project], they only need to put in $30 to $35 million.
“With this money on the table, Luke Donnellan [State Minister for Roads and Road Safety] has no excuse – the money’s there.”
Mr Chester credited the announcement to incumbent Russell Broadbent’s ongoing advocacy for upgrades along the South Gippsland Highway.
He said he often received feedback on the state of the highway and the $25 million would help fix “a notorious stretch of road”.
“The South Gippsland Highway is a road that has long been in need of a major overhaul,” Mr Chester said.
“While the highway is not on the national road network, Russell Broadbent has been a strong advocate to secure ‘off-network’ federal funding for this road on behalf of his local community.
“This funding will not only change the lives of South Gippsland residents and visitors, it can also save lives.”
Mr Broadbent said he would like to see funding for the Black Spur, and other sections of the highway towards Yarram.
“The 3.4km section of the Black Spur bends is steep and narrow and has been the scene of more than a dozen accidents in the past five years, including serious truck crashes,” Mr Broadbent said.
“The realignment of this road is a high priority and we will consult with VicRoads and the community to ensure local residents and freight operators get home safely and provide a safer route for tourists.”
Councillors witness promise
Five councillors attended the announcement by the two federal MPs, representing various transport and road interests in the shire.
The South Gippsland Highway is 255km long, the majority of which runs through South Gippsland Shire.
The council has listed the Black Spur bends on its priority projects for a number of years, advocating to remove nine tight curves by constructing a new 2.3km highway with two bridges over the Tarwin River and two underpasses under the Great Southern Rail Trail.
Attending was Mayor Bob Newton and Deputy Mohya Davies; South East Australian Transport Strategy chair Cr Jeanette Harding, South West Gippsland Transport Group chair Andrew McEwen, and South Gippsland Shire’s representative on the Gippsland Road Safe Committee Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks.