By Kirra Grimes
SAFETY improvements to the South Gippsland Highway between Korumburra and Leongatha, already close to 20 years in the making, could be a step closer to becoming a reality, with the latest plans presented to the community at drop in consultation session last week.
State Government body Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) invited community members to Coal Creek Community Park and Museum last Thursday to have their say on a proposed realignment of the South Gippsland Highway east of Korumburra, designed to make the notorious Coal Creek bends safer for motorists.
According to RRV data, there have been 17 reported crashes along this section of highway between January 2014 and December 2018, resulting in two people losing their lives and five being seriously injured.
A temporary 60km/h speed limit was introduced in 2017 to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes, but RRV says a realignment of a 4.1km section, removing a number of sharp and winding curves, is needed to improve road safety, and to increase freight efficiency and reliability along this section of the highway.
Also included in RRV’s latest proposal -which is available online for those unable to attend last week’s session- are roadside and centre median safety barriers, a new service lane, upgrades to the intersection of the highway and Korumburra South Road, and two roundabouts on Silkstone Road.
According to the plans, one large roundabout would be constructed on the realigned highway at the eastern edge of the town’s residential area, just north of the Coal Creek Motel.
A second, smaller roundabout, for the intersection of Silkstone Road, would connect to both Rudville Avenue and the existing South Gippsland Highway.
These two roundabouts would provide safer access for vehicles entering and exiting the highway from Silkstone Road, and would regulate vehicle speeds as they enter residential areas of Korumburra, RRV says.
Improvements needed ‘sooner rather than later’
The community consultation session was well-attended, with more than 70 people viewing the plans and completing feedback forms.
But with no government funds allocated for construction, some community members were concerned it could be years before works get started, and that more accidents could occur in the meantime.
Korumburra resident Maryanne Jackson appreciated the opportunity to be kept informed on the project, and agreed the plans would improve safety, but worried about the lack of a timeline for construction.
“There’s such a high number of accidents but from what they’ve told us, it won’t be at least two years, maybe longer, before anything happens. It’s a pretty mammoth undertaking, when you consider the country they’ve got to work through, but they need to get it done sooner rather than later,” she said.
Noel Hopkins also questioned if and when works would start, telling project officers he’d attended a similar consultation sessions in the past, when several options for the proposed realignment were presented to the community during the initial planning stages in 2001 and 2007.
Others had specific queries they were pleased to have answered at the session, like Lynette Amor, who went along to see if the proposed changes would do anything to improve the “unbearable” noise and vibrations she experienced in her home on the straight section of highway between Coal Creek and Korumburra South Road intersection.
“I’ve come to see if it’s going to get any better, and from the sound of it, the road will be a better road but it’s not going to improve the noise from the trucks carrying freight and cattle.
“It’s given me an idea of what to do in the future- I’ll definitely have to move, because the traffic is only going to get worse. I know what it was like 30 years ago and the amount of extra traffic and trucks now is unbelievable. It’s to the point where we can’t sit outside or open windows.”
Representatives of the Korumburra Gun Club, located on the Leongatha side of the Korumburra South Road intersection, also attended the session and were pleased to see their earlier feedback to RRV had been incorporated into the plans.
“Their original plan gave us no right turn in to the club and we would’ve had to go 1km down the road to turn around. Now they’ve changed it so we’ve got no right turn out, which is more manageable. We only have to go about 100 metres down the road. So we’re happy with that,” a club spokesperson said.
VicRoads’ Acting Regional Director (Eastern), Henry Lam said the overall sentiment from those who attended the consultation session was positive.
“We’ll now use the feedback we received to inform our final designs,” Mr Lam said.
Regional Roads Victoria says it will “continue to explore opportunities to progress the planning for this important road infrastructure improvement project,” and that once finalised, these plans will be put forward for future funding consideration.
Those that didn’t attend the session can view the plans and submit feedback via regionalroads.vic.gov.au.